Nova Scotia

Students protest dress code at Cape Breton school after crop top sends girl home

At least two dozen students protested outside Sydney Academy on Thursday to push back against a dress code they say unfairly targets and sexualizes girls.

Students also upset by strong police presence during protest

More than a dozen Cape Breton Regional Police officers responded to Sydney Academy at noon on Thursday as students protested the high school’s dress code. (Tom Ayers/CBC)

About 30 students protested outside Sydney Academy on Thursday after one of their own was sent home for breaking the high school's dress code.

More than a dozen police officers were on hand as the protesters sat or stood in front of the school over the lunch hour.

Grade 11 student Savonna Syliboy was among the protesters and said the student who was sent home had been wearing a cropped shirt that showed her midriff.

"I don't know why they make a big thing out of it," said Syliboy. "They teach us self-love, they teach us confidence, but then we go to school and we get sexualized like this."

Syliboy and other students said girls are being unfairly targeted under the school's dress code and they want change.

Adrian MacDonald, a Grade 12 student, said girls get disciplined for dress code violations far more often than boys.

Some students say the school's dress code targets girls more often than boys. (Tom Ayers/CBC)

Doug Lionais, whose daughter attends the school, said the dress code is out of date. He said it bans naked shoulders, belly buttons and stomachs.

"That type of dress code is in itself a sexualization practice," he said. "It is educating people, both boys and girls, that these parts of their bodies are sexual parts, when they're not."

Lionais said young people need some kind of guidance, but ideally that should be developed with input from the students.

Heavy police presence

While most of the students were upset over the dress code, they also took issue with the strong police presence.

Some officers lined up outside the school's door, while others stood outside the crowd and still more directed traffic.

Lionais said he was shocked at what he called the "extreme overreaction" by Cape Breton Regional Police.

More than a dozen officers were at the protest. (Tom Ayers/CBC)

In an email, the force said officers were simply on scene for public safety. It said any questions about the incident should be directed to school administration.

No one from the school was available for comment.

Students can address concerns with SAC

In an email, the Cape Breton-Victoria Regional Centre for Education said the current dress code was approved by the school advisory council.

It said the students recently asked for an opportunity to discuss their concerns with the council and that will happen at the next meeting.

Lionais said he was happy to hear that.

"I think that is a great outcome of the protest. It shows these students that their actions worked."