Students protest dress code imposed by Ottawa Catholic high schools

Several hundred students gathered outside an Ottawa Catholic high school on Friday to protest the massive dress code enforcement the day before.

The effort by staff at Lycée Béatrice-Desloges in Orleans outraged students, who said the action was unfair and appeared to be aimed at female students.

“I’m frustrated,” said Melisande Ouellette, a 17-year-old Grade 11 student at the school.

Ouellette said she was in math class on Thursday morning when school principal Marie-Claude Veilleux arrived to enforce the dress code. Ouellette said Veilleux asked all the girls to stand up and told Ouellette that the length of his shorts was “inappropriate”.

“It was really embarrassing to get up in front of everyone and walk out just because I was wearing denim shorts. »

Ouellette said she was sent to the office to wait until someone could bring her different clothes.

” [Staff] walked into every classroom, knocked on every door and told the girls to get up,” Ouellette said.

Reece Bloodworth, another 17-year-old student, said more than 100 students were removed from class on Thursday.

She said some girls who were sent home to change had their mobile phones confiscated so they could go back to school.

“It’s just absolutely ridiculous, inappropriate, and honestly hurtful,” Bloodworth said.

“We were just trying to learn and we got confused. »

Students gathered outside the school to protest just after 11am on Friday.

Ottawa police say they were called to the school around 11:30 a.m. A person was arrested at the scene for trespassing, but no charges were laid. They say the person arrested is not a student of the school. The protest ended before 1 p.m. Friday.

The school’s dress code states that students should wear “clean, decent and appropriate” clothing. It states that shorts and skirts should be mid-thigh, and muscle shirts and crop tops cannot be worn.

Temperatures in Ottawa hit 30.5C on Thursday, the hottest day the city has seen so far this year, according to Environment Canada data. Ouellette said several male students wearing tank tops were not asked to change and were not subjected to the same public dress code scrutiny.

A spokesperson for the Conseil des écoles catholiques du Centre-Est (CECCE), the largest French-English school board in Ontario, said in an email that they have launched a process to review school dress codes in order to make them gender neutral and non-discriminatory last November.

“This collaborative exercise allows the board and its schools to review issues and concerns related to the current or recommended dress code. »

They also said Superintendent of Education Jason Dupuis and Chief Human Resources Officer Laurie-Eve Bergeron met with staff and students on Friday to discuss the incidents.

“The administration takes the complaints and allegations received regarding the approach taken yesterday very seriously,” a council spokesperson said in the email.

The principal of the Veilleux school could not be reached for comment.

The Toronto Catholic District School Board (TCDSB) requires all students to wear a uniform.

A spokesperson for the Toronto board said in an email that the school’s current attire reflects the board’s mission, providing a safe and welcoming learning environment.

“All elementary schools in TCDSB have a dress code of any combination of white and navy blue clothing. Enforcement of local dress codes is the responsibility of the manager. »

With files by Isabel Teotonio.

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