Orléans high school students protest dress code enforcement blitz
Students say situation 'infuriating,' principal apologizes if students felt 'targeted'
Disgruntled students at an Ottawa French Catholic high school in Orléans took to the street Friday to protest a dress code enforcement blitz the previous day, in which mainly girls were called out into the hallway to see if their clothing conformed to the rules.
Several students at École secondaire catholique Béatrice-Desloges told CBC they saw staff asking other students to bend over in order to measure the length of their shorts and dresses — something the school board says it's looking into but says "nothing indicates" that happened so far.
"It's stupid. It's infuriating. It's disgusting behaviour from adults," said Jamie Raymond, one of dozens of students who demonstrated in front of the school Friday.
"We're children. I'm 15. Most of these students are under 18. It's not right to have them bend over and ... check if their underwear can be seen."
A youth was arrested by police at the protest, but Ottawa police said in a release Friday afternoon he was not a student and was causing a disturbance and trespassing. He was escorted off the property, but was not charged or ticketed.
On Thursday, some students were sent to the office and some parents were notified that their children needed a change of clothing.
École secondaire catholique Béatrice-Desloges has a dress code stating that shorts and skirts can't be shorter than mid-thigh, according to Jason Dupuis, a superintendent of education at the French Catholic school board Conseil des écoles catholiques du Centre-Est (CECCE).
The policy isn't new to students or parents and was developed in collaboration with them, he said.
While incidents of non-compliance are generally handled discreetly, Dupuis said, staff at the school decided to conduct a enforcement blitz Thursday in light of the recent heat. Thursday's high reached 30 C in Ottawa.
Some boys were pulled out of class, "but I would say that the vast majority were girls," Dupuis said.
'Nothing indicates' measuring or bending over, board says
"Obviously, with the warm weather and everything, it was important to remind students of what ... is appropriate to wear at school," he said.
Dupuis added that "nothing indicates" staff actually measured clothing or asked students to bend over, "but we're continuing our conversations with them to see what happened, and if we have to make some [changes], we will.
"We want the students to feel well in their environment and in their school."
The heat-related explanation didn't sit well with student Ava Cléroux, who said she saw teachers ask a group of four girls to bend over in order to assess the length of their clothes.
"It was 30 degrees. We're dressed for the weather. We're not dressed to impress anyone," Cléroux said. We're here for our education, and if you're going to pull us out of school, what education do we have?"
Apology if students felt 'targeted'
In a letter issued to parents Thursday after the blitz, principal Marie-Claude Veilleux of École secondaire catholique Béatrice-Desloges wrote some students were asked to step into the hallway "to clarify the code," Veilleux wrote.
"I would like to point out that the interventions of [staff] were made respecting the dignity of students," the letter in French reads.
School administrators acknowledge the approach could have left some students feeling "targeted," Veilleux wrote, "and we are sorry" if some students perceived it that way.
Discussions with the student government and parent council about how best to enforce the code are ongoing, she added.
On its website, the CECCE says dress codes at its schools are established by principals "in co-operation with students and staff," and in consultation with school councils.
Dupuis said dress codes are "delicate" matters in the board's high schools, and he isn't surprised some students have a problem with them.
He also said fashion changes and school boards have to adapt, but while they can accept certain things, "some things [they] cannot."
With files from Sonja Koenig,