Few school boards have dress codes for teachers

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

Trouble is, teens in Halton have spoken out after a video of an Oakville Trafalgar High School trans teacher went viral showing her in a store class wearing oversized prosthetic breasts with protruding nipples under tight and revealing shirts.

The ensuing controversy – which grabbed headlines around the world – saw the school targeted by protesters and some staff members threatened. Police are now stationed daily on site.

Ambica Randhawa, a grade 10 student at the school, is not bothered by the teacher’s appearance, but would like to see rules in place, rules that respect all staff and students.

“I personally don’t mind too much – maybe because I don’t have any of his classes – but I think the dress code policy should be applied to both teachers and students.”

She’s not sure if the dress code should be the same for teenagers and teachers, but thinks “there’s a way you have to 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 is comfortable.”

A Grade 12 student from Oakville Trafalgar, who isn’t in any shop class but sees the teacher in the hallways, said her peers were ‘quite divided’ over the controversy, with some ‘very defensive at the time. regard to the teacher and her choices”, labeling anyone critical as transphobic, while others say it has nothing to do with gender expression, but think it is an “inappropriate way to dressing”, especially in shop classes, where large prosthetic breasts could be a hazard.

“If you’re asking students to follow a dress code, it’s also important that staff follow the same dress code, especially if violating that dress code might make students feel uncomfortable,” the student said, who asked not to. to be named.

Education Minister Stephen Lecce has asked the Ontario College of Teachers to review and “consider strengthening” professional standards. Halton’s board, which has a special meeting on Wednesday evening, is expected to address broader dress code issues after directors asked for a report.

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

Halton’s director of education, Curtis Ennis, said the board “continues to manage this matter in a way that remains true to our values ​​and commitment to human rights, respects privacy and the dignity of our students and staff, and with the safety and well-being of students and staff as our highest priority.

At a September 21 board meeting, Trustee Tracey Ehl Harrison moved a motion calling for the director to return to the board by the end of November with “a report addressing the various considerations regarding the dress code”. It passed unanimously.

Halton’s student dress code states that “Dress codes shall prevent students from wearing clothing that exposes or makes visible the genitals and nipples.”

A survey of school boards across the province found that most do not have dress codes for staff, including the Toronto Catholic Board and the Toronto District School Board – the largest in the country – and boards neither are smaller ones like Upper Grand in the Guelph area.

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

Waterloo’s policy, which came into effect in 2001 and was revised in 2020, states “staff are expected to dress in a manner consistent with their roles and responsibilities on the board. . The specific standard will be established by the supervisor in consultation with staff.

The Dufferin-Peel Catholic Council does not have a dress code for teachers, but the Peel Public Council says such matters fall under its more general code of conduct.

Halton board chairwoman Margo Shuttleworth said the teacher controversy at Oakville Trafalgar is a staffing issue and is beyond the purview of the trustees.

However, she added, the administrators have received most of the calls of concern about it, and it is their job to “bring the voice of the community to the director”.

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