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Ontario principal advised students not to dress 'skanky'

A high school principal from Guelph, Ont., says he was simply trying to send a "strong message" about dressing appropriately when he used the word "skanky" to describe what type of style students should be avoiding.

Principal apologized, but some still aren't satisfied

A high school principal from Guelph, Ont., says he was simply trying to send a "strong message" about dressing appropriately when he used the word "skanky" to describe what type of style students should be avoiding.

Scot Bishop, the principal of Centennial Collegiate Vocational Institute, reportedly used the word during a public address last week.

The principal of Centennial Collegiate Vocational Institute surprised many students when he reportedly used the word 'skanky,' when talking about appropriate styles of dress. (CBC)

Student Brittany Harlick says that it was hard to believe the words coming out of the principal's mouth last Friday.

"At first, many of us thought we had heard him wrong because it was fairly shocking," she told CBC News in an interview.

"He said to ... dress cool, not skanky."

The word skanky means "unattractive or disgusting," or that's the way it is defined in the online version of the Canadian Oxford Dictionary.

Harlick said it's a word that is generally directed toward women and not men, but she said the principal had meant for it to apply both men and women.

"He did apologize at a later date, but I feel as a young girl that it targets women more than men."

Several students who spoke to CBC News remembered the phrase the principal used slightly differently when asked about the incident on Thursday, but all remembered the key word at the centre of his controversial remarks.

"He said: 'We're going for cool, not skanky,'" said Noirin Uddin, a 16-year-old Grade 10 student.

Uddin was among those students at Centennial who felt the incident had been overblown.

"I feel like some people are taking Mr. Bishop's words too seriously," she said.

But Bishop's words clearly offended some students and parents, including Karen Campbell, who has three children attending the high school.

Campbell told CBC News that she felt the principal's remarks were offensive and his later apology was inappropriate as well.

Apology also an issue for some

The principal sent an email to Campbell, which she shared with CBC News, apologizing "for offending you with my language."

Bishop also said his intent was not "to denigrate anyone," but "to send a strong message about the dress code to all students."

Bishop went on to say in the email that "it is interesting to note that numerous parents, students, and staff thanked me Friday for taking a stand and sending a strong message about appropriate clothing in the warm weather."

The school board is due to comment on the matter on Friday, when it is believed some students are planning to protest the dress code.

Madeline Morris, a 17-year-old Grade 12 student, wasn't at school on the day that Bishop made his comments. But she heard about them.

She said there are differing opinions among students on what was said.

"Personally, I just think that our principal made a slip of the tongue and I just think that it's been taken to [an] extreme," she said in an interview.

Jordan Cunliffe, who also attends Centennial, said some female students "don't care he said that," while others are quite upset — including with his apology.

"Some people think that he just didn't apologize correctly and people aren't accepting his apology," he said.

The controversy at the southwestern Ontario school comes just after a New Brunswick high-school student says she was told that her dress was an alleged "sexual distraction."

With reports from the CBC's Lorenda Reddekopp and Greg Ross

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