Ottawa’s French Catholic School Board says the way a local high school’s dress code was enforced this week was unacceptable.
Marc Bertrand, director of education at the Conseil des écoles catholiques du Centre-Est (CECCE), said in a letter to families on Saturday that board staff met with students and teachers at Beatrice-Desloges High School on Friday after several Students reported, mostly girls, were subjected to a dress code check of the length of their shorts.
“School board officials arrived at the school early Friday morning to spend the day there and to meet with several affected students and staff to shed light on the situation,” the letter said in French.
Bertrand said an investigation found members of the school’s management team and certain staff members conducted the dress code blitz and that an unspecified number of students, most of them women, were called into the corridors.
“Some students were asked to bend their leg back at the knee while standing to check that the shorts they were wearing conformed to the dress code,” Bertrand said.
He said no student was asked to bend down, nor was a student’s clothing measured with a ruler, as described in some versions of events circulated online, but he acknowledged that many of the students felt humiliated and humiliated.
“This dress code review strategy is not encouraged by the CECCE and is unacceptable,” Bertrand wrote. “It is imperative that all students are treated with dignity and respect. No student should be subjected to such a scrutiny of his clothing, much less challenged in front of his fellow students. Unfortunately, the strategy followed by the school last Thursday does not reflect these values, which are very important to CECCE.”
Board deals with police response
Students from Beatrice-Desloges held a strike on Friday afternoon. Police arrived during the event and video showed an officer pushing a boy against a squad car. Police said one person was arrested but released without a ticket or charge.
Bertrand said police were called to ensure safety as some students had taken to the street and blocked traffic. At one point, a small group of students from another school board came by car, drove unsteadily through the crowd, and were uncooperative, Bertrand said, prompting police to intervene. None of Beatrice-Desloges’ students were arrested.
The protest ended at 12:45 p.m. and the students returned to their studies.
“The administration of the Conseil des écoles catholiques du Center-Est sincerely regrets this outcome and would like to apologize to the students and families disturbed by these events,” said Bertrand. “Follow-up investigations are ongoing with all CECCE schools to ensure that such a situation does not occur again.”
Bretrand said Superintendent of Education Jason Dupuis would be at the school on Monday to be in touch with any students affected or their parents.
Requests a third party investigation
Parent Greg Legace is calling for a third-party investigation into Thursday’s events.
“Investigate what actually happened that day,” Lagace said.
“It is clear from the correspondence that they are more focused on updating school policy than the actions of the staff who carried out this lightning strike and the consequences it had on the students. I strongly believe there should be a third party investigation.”
Student Sophie Labbee says it appears the school board wants to hear dress code concerns.
“I thought they really took everything seriously and I thought they really made an effort to make our voices heard,” Labbee said.
Labbee says she was picked by the administration for what she wore to school.
“We just wanted to make it clear to the teachers and principals that what they were doing was really unprofessional and enforce the dress code a little more respectfully,” Labbee said Saturday.
Lagace says he was “shocked” when he heard from his children that officials had “blitzed” the dress code.
“I’m all for a dress code. I’m all for rules. But there’s a way you can do it, and that was utterly disrespectful,” said Lagace, who said his children weren’t involved in checking the dress code.
Dupuis says CECCE is considering a third-party investigation.
“We take that as parental advice. Effective immediately, the school board will continue the investigation into Thursday’s events,” Dupuis said.
“We are very open to some dress code changes.”
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