Winston: Do we really need dress codes for Ottawa high school students?

Students and parents can find out for themselves. On the other hand, the protesting students should feel relieved that they don’t have to wear burkhas and have the privilege of education.

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The recent student protest against a flash dress code at a high school in Orleans reminded me of my encounter with a dress code at a high school in Western Canada over 50 years ago.

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The school principal asked any woman to kneel while she was checked to comply with the dress code he had imposed. That was how he could make sure her skirt was the right length. If the skirt did not touch the ground when she knelt, it was deemed too short and she was asked not to wear it to school again.

Yes, it was humiliating and unpleasant, especially since the test was aimed at the staff.

I was fairly new to teaching and it was my first term in school. The mandatory inspection took place in the staff room, in front of the rest of the staff. Slight concession to modesty (or indecency, depending on the point of view), no teacher who failed the skirt length test was sent home before the end of the day or ordered to change on the spot. . I don’t know what would have happened if an offending garment had appeared a second time without alteration. No one has ever tested the code.

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As for trousers or, God forbid, shorts of any length, there was little doubt that they would not have been allowed to darken the threshold of the school, whether worn by a student or staff member. No one would have dreamed of questioning the principal’s authority in such matters. At this time, the school principal had the final say in the day-to-day administration of his small dominion.

All of this is in stark contrast to the events that unfolded at a high school in Orleans on May 13. First, there was a mass protest by students angry at being “body-shamed” and being told their choice of attire was inappropriate. Then their anger at the policy requiring students’ dress to be “clean, decent and appropriate” was taken seriously when the Superintendent of Education met with them and promised to review the school’s dress code. school and the length of shorts that might be deemed too short.

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Other rules in the code refer to any visible part of underwear, especially if a top is too skimpy and doesn’t fully cover the upper body. I haven’t seen anything about muscle shirts and wonder if they’re mentioned in the school dress code or if the rules are primarily for women’s clothing.

Arguably, a dress code is a good idea, if students are not required to wear school uniforms as many are in private schools. It is a way of preparing young people for the world of work and what is considered appropriate clothing there. The problem, in my opinion, is not so much the rules on dress as the method of enforcement and who should be required to ensure that students remain within the general scope of appropriate dress for all occasions . For practical reasons, you should not wear a ball gown when gardening or a skirt when mountaineering.

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Most high school students are surely capable of deciding for themselves what “appropriate attire” means and altering their clothing to suit the occasion and location, as well as to blend in with current fashion. And for those who are not, isn’t parental advice the most effective way? If the code is to remain in effect, then a private discussion with any offending student would be kinder and fairer than removing the student from the classroom in front of the others.

On the other side of the coin, students protesting should feel relieved that they don’t have to hide under burkhas and have the privilege of education, as well as the right to protest peacefully. Being forced to wear slightly longer shorts is a relatively small restriction in comparison.

  1. Jason Dupuis, superintendent of education for the French Catholic Schools Commission, speaks to students at Beatrice-Desloges Catholic High School on Friday as they protest the implementation of a dress code.

    Acting SPO chief Bell says the ‘legitimate’ police response was prompted by calls from the school following a dress code protest

  2. Students at the Béatrice-Desloges Catholic secondary school protest against the establishment of a dress code

    French Catholic school board apologizes for dress code crackdown at Orléans high school

Iris Winston is a writer from Ottawa.

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