Police respond to officer's school uniform advice

The Toronto police are responding after an officer told a school principal that students of a prep school might want to avoid wearing school uniforms on the TTC to avoid sexual harassment or assault.

The Toronto police are responding to a story published last week, in which an officer told a school principal that students of a prep school might want to avoid wearing school uniforms after two young girls complained of being harassed and leered at while riding the TTC.

Two female students at Greenwood College, a private prep school for students in Grades 7 to 12, complained to police last week that a man had leered at them and attempted to look up their skirts as they travelled to school on the subway. The two were wearing their school uniforms, which includes a blazer and skirt.

The girls filed a report with police. The school’s principal sought advice from the investigating officer. The principal then sent out an email to parents and teachers based on that advice, the Toronto Sun reported.

In the email the principal wrote: "Students, especially females, should consider not wearing their school uniforms while riding the TTC."

Const. Wendy Drummond, a spokesperson for the Toronto Police Service, appeared on CBC Radio’s Metro Morning  on Thursday to speak about the incident. Host Matt Galloway asked Drummond if the officer's suggestion that students not wear school uniforms on public transit was appropriate.

Drummond said the officer’s intention was to make school staff aware that uniforms can give perpetrators information about their potential victims.

'A uniform provides a lot of information'

"My understanding of the advice that was given from the officer is that it did not specify a skirt," said Drummond.

"The officer was explaining to the principal that for students, not just girls, that a uniform provides a lot of information to people that you might not realize. Now we’ve got kids in public, broadcasting where they’re going to school, what route they’re taking to school."

"The advice given was for the protection of the students," said Drummond. "It was not meant to be anything other than advice."

Galloway asked Drummond about whether the advice could send a message that victims of sexual assaults are to blame.

In January a Toronto police officer told a security class at York University that "women should avoid dressing like sluts." The officer later apologized for the comments, but the incident stirred outrage and spawned a "Slut Walk," where women marched in protest.

That has since sparked similar Slut Walk marches in other countries.

Drummond said it’s unfortunate the safety message was lost in the officer's comments made to the principal last week, which she said were "taken out of context."

"I think it’s going to be pretty sad when we can’t give advice to keep our kids safe," she said.