Few school boards have dress codes for teachers

Students say it’s unfair that they have to follow a dress code when few Ontario school boards have such rules for teachers.

The problem is what teenagers in Halton were talking about after a video of a translation teacher at Oakville Trafalgar High School went viral showing her in store class wearing oversized breast forms with protruding nipples under tight, revealing shirts.

The ensuing controversy — which has made headlines around the world — has resulted in the school being targeted by protesters and some staff members threatened. The police are now stationed on the spot daily.

Ambica Randhawa, a 10th grade student at the school, doesn’t mind the teacher’s appearance, but would like to see rules – rules that all staff and students respect.

“Personally it doesn’t bother me – maybe because I don’t have classes from her – but I do think the dress code should be enforced for both the teachers and the students.”

She’s not sure if the dress code should be the same for teens and teachers, but believes “there is a way you should dress in a learning environment.”

“I think everyone has the right to express themselves as they are … but in the learning environment you have to make sure everyone feels comfortable there.”

A 12th grade Oakville Trafalgar student, who is not in a shopping class but sees the teacher in the hallways, said her peers are “quite divided” over the controversy, with some being “very defensive of the teacher and her choices” and anyone who has been critically labeled as transphobic, while others say it has nothing to do with gender expression, but believe it to be an “inappropriate way of dressing”, especially in the shopping class, where the large breast forms can pose a danger.

“If you want students to follow a dress code, then it’s also important that the staff follow the same dress code, especially if a violation of that dress code could make students feel uncomfortable,” said the student, who asked not to. be called.

Education Minister Stephen Lecce has asked the Ontario College of Teachers to review and ‘strengthen’ professional standards. Halton’s board, which has a special meeting Wednesday night, is expected to discuss more general dress codes after administrators asked for a report.

The College of Teachers’ review is expected to include some discussion of a standard dress code or expectations or a tightening of ethical standards, which currently state that teachers “should uphold the honor and dignity of the teaching profession”.

Curtis Ennis, Halton’s director of education, said the board “will continue to address this issue in a manner that remains true to our values ​​and commitment to human rights, respects the privacy and dignity of our students and employees, and with the safety and well-being of our staff.” of students and staff as our top priority.”

At a Sept. 21 board meeting, trustee Tracey Ehl Harrison proposed a motion calling on the director to return to the board by the end of November with “a report addressing the various considerations related to dress code.” It was passed unanimously.

Halton’s student dress code states that “dress codes should prevent students from wearing clothing that exposes or exposes genitals and nipples.”

A survey of boards across the county found that most have no dress codes for staff, including the Toronto Catholic Board and Toronto District School Board — the largest in the country — as well as smaller boards like Upper Grand in the Guelph area. .

The Waterloo Region District School Board does have one, and a spokesperson said there have been no violations that escalated. However, “school administrators may have faced minor issues,” Eusis Dougan-McKenzie said.

The Waterloo Policy, which came into effect in 2001 and was revised in 2020, states: “It is expected … that staff will dress in a manner consistent with their roles and responsibilities on the board. The specific standard is established by the manager in consultation with the staff.”

Dufferin-Peel’s Catholic board doesn’t have a dress code for teachers, but Peel’s public board says such matters fall under its more general code of conduct.

Halton’s chairman of the board, Margo Shuttleworth, said the controversy over the Oakville Trafalgar teacher is a staffing issue and not within the purview of administrators.

However, she added that trustees have received most of the concern about this, and their job is to “bring the voice of the community to the director”.

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