Ottawa’s French Catholic school board said the way a local high school’s dress code was enforced this week was unacceptable.
Marc Betrand, director of education for 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 from Béatrice-Desloges High School on Friday in following reports that several students, mostly girls, were subjected to dress checks on the length of their shorts.
“School board staff arrived at the school early Friday morning to spend the day there and meet with several students and staff members concerned to shed light on the situation,” the letter said, in French.
Bertrand said an investigation revealed that members of the school administration and some staff had led the dress code blitz and that an unknown number of students, mostly women, had been called in the hallways.
“Some students were asked to bend their leg backwards at the knee while standing in order to check if the shorts being worn complied with the dress code,” Bertrand said.
He said no student was asked to bend over, and no student’s clothing was measured by a ruler, as described in some versions of events circulating online, but he acknowledged that many students felt degraded and humiliated.
“This dress code verification strategy is not encouraged by the CECCE and is not acceptable,” Bertrand wrote. “All students absolutely must be treated with dignity and respect. No student should be subjected to such control of their dress and even less be challenged in front of their peers. The strategy employed by the school last Thursday unfortunately does not reflect these values dear to the CECCE.
Council addresses police response
The students of Béatrice-Desloges organized a walkout on Friday afternoon. During the event, police arrived and video showed an officer pushing a boy against a cruiser at one point. Police say one person was arrested but released without a ticket or charge.
Bertrand said police were called in to provide security as some students moved down the street, stopping traffic. At one point, a small group of students from another school board drove up, drove dangerously through the crowd and did not cooperate, at which point the police intervened, he said. . None of Béatrice-Desloges’ students were arrested.
The protest ended at 12:45 p.m. and the students resumed their studies.
“The management of the Conseil des écoles catholiques du Centre-Est is sincerely sorry for this outcome and would like to apologize to the students and families who have been disturbed by these events,” said Bertrand. “Follow-ups are underway with all CECCE schools to ensure that such a situation does not happen again.
Bretrand said Superintendent of Education Jason Dupuis would be at school Monday to follow up with affected students or their parents.