Toronto

TDSB revises its dress code and the rules are not what you might remember

The Toronto District School Board is changing the rules around what students can wear in the classroom. They're now free to wear hats, hoods, crop-tops and spaghetti straps — all without having to worry about being sent to the principal's office. 

New policy passed May 22 after about a year of consultations will come into effect September 2019

The Toronto District School Board has revised its dress code, allowing students to bare their midriffs and to wear spaghetti straps, croptops and hoodies. (Frank Gunn/Canadian Press)

The Toronto District School Board is changing the rules around what students can wear in the classroom, making it OK to wear hats, hoods, crop-tops and spaghetti straps — all without having to worry about being sent to the principal's office. 

The new policy, passed on May 22, takes effect September 2019 and draws on with principles of "equity, anti-oppression, anti-racism, non discrimination, equitable and inclusive education," the board says on its website.

It's the first time the policy has been revised in nearly a decade. 

"Historically, school dress codes have been written and enforced in ways that disproportionately and negatively impact" certain segments of the student population, including female, racialized, gender-diverse, socio-economically marginalized and Indigenous students, the board says.

'Able to show our true selves'

And while many schools have already adopted a more relaxed policy over the years, the policy means schools across the board will operate according to the same standards, with the exception of schools with a uniform policy, although rules at those schools are coming under review as well.

That's welcome news to many students who felt the rules used to unfairly discriminate against specific kinds of students. 

Student Marley Bonnick remembers one instance when a classmate of hers was sent to the office by an older, male teacher because he was uncomfortable with her choice of dress.

"I feel like that's unfair to her," said Bonnick. "If we're being restricted in what we wear, we're not able to show our true selves."

Student Marley Bonnick remembers when a classmate of hers was sent to the office by an older male teacher because he was uncomfortable with her choice of dress. (John Grierson/CBC)

The changes follow about a year of consultations that involved hearing from parents, students, education workers and teachers, says the president of the Ontario Secondary School Teachers' Federation, Leslie Wolfe.

She says the teachers' union advocated for more student voice and "less policing of student bodies" in the new policy.

'There should be limits'

Some teachers did have concerns about hoodies and hats obscuring students' faces and the possible impacts on school safety, but the policy says those items can only be worn in a way that students' faces can be seen.

"I think there's probably an element of the population that will be on a bit of a learning curve around allowing students and their families full say in how students dress," Wolfe said.

"But I think people will quickly come to understand that we're at a time now where there's a recognition that dress policies in the past unfairly targeted female and female-identified students, and oversexualize them."

OSSTF Toronto president Leslie Wolfe says her union advocated for more student voice and 'less policing of student bodies' in the new policy. (John Grierson/CBC)

But there are those with reservations. 

Parent Karen Maan sees the classroom as the foundation for students to learn about how to carry themselves.

"If they don't have a dress code, how are they going to learn that?" she asked. "They can express themselves but there should be limits on it."

The policy does come with restrictions. Students can't wear clothing that promotes offensive, vulgar images or language. Profanity, hate and pornography are not allowed. Nor can clothing have references to drugs or alcohol.

And while midriffs, cleavage and thighs can all be exposed, "opaque material" must cover the groin, buttock area and nipples.

That makes sense, said Bonnick.

"Certain things shouldn't be worn ... things showing too much skin, maybe things that are too revealing," the student said.

"Really, how a child or a young adult chooses to dress is up to them and their families and they should really be setting the standards," said Wolfe

 

With files from Alison Chiasson

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