A new dress code will take effect in January for all schools in Ottawa's French Catholic school board, six months after an enforcement blitz at a high school in Orléans prompted a protest and made headlines.
On May 13, students at École secondaire catholique Béatrice-Desloges left school to protest the previous day's enforcement blitz, in which mainly girls were called out into the hallway to see if their clothing conformed to the school's rules on an exceptionally hot day.
The Conseil des écoles catholiques du Centre-Est (CECCE) had launched consultations on a new dress code policy the previous fall and announced the new code Friday.
Students must wear clothing that is appropriate for school.
Clothing cannot promote or symbolize drugs, alcohol, illegal activity, hatred, racism, discrimination, blasphemy or pornography, and can't incite violence or harassment or threaten health and safety.
Clothing must be opaque and cover underwear and private parts.
Helmets, hats and headgear are accepted at all times outside the classroom, but must be removed inside classrooms and during national anthems, prayer and religious celebrations.
Hair accessories and religious headwear are always accepted, but a person's eyes must be visible at all times.
Sunglasses can be worn inside if the student has a medical condition.
Schools can implement specific dress codes for sports teams, clubs, bands, laboratories and so on.
Schools with uniforms will still use them, but the dress code will apply on days when uniforms aren't required.
Prior to the new universal code, dress codes were established at individual schools by principals in co-operation with students and staff and in consultation with school councils, CECCE said.
"This new dress code reflects the importance the CECCE places on ensuring that every student is welcomed, respected and fulfilled within its school community," a news release issued by the board Friday said.
Enforcement blitz was 'infuriating'
The May dress code enforcement blitz saw some students sent to the office, while some parents were notified that their children needed a change of clothing.
The code at Béatrice-Desloges stated that shorts and skirts couldn't be shorter than mid-thigh, according to Jason Dupuis, a superintendent of education at CECCE.
"It's stupid. It's infuriating. It's disgusting behaviour from adults," said Jamie Raymond, one of dozens of students who demonstrated in front of the school that day.
The school board soon apologized, and said a preliminary investigation found that some students, mostly girls, were called into the hallways and asked to bend their leg backwards at the knee to determine if their shorts complied with the dress code.
While many students felt degraded and humiliated, the board said it didn't find evidence that anyone had been asked to bend over — an allegation made by several students at the protest.
A youth who didn't go to the school was arrested by police at the protest for causing a disturbance and trespassing. He was escorted off the property, but not charged or ticketed.
Later in May, the CECCE announced that the school's principal was leaving her post and transferring to a position with the board's learning support services.
In a letter to parents, there was no mention of any connection between the controversy earlier that month and the principal's departure.