High school students protest after boy suspended for wearing makeup at school

A group of students at a high school in Montreal's Mile End neighbourhood arrived for class on Monday wearing heavy makeup, protesting the recent suspension of a classmate for wearing makeup.

Officials at Robert Gravel High School, which specializes in theatre education, suspended the teenage boy last week. He is currently being taught at a local YMCA.

The school does not explicitly address makeup in its code of conduct, but principal Mathieu Lachance said boys and girls are allowed to wear "light" makeup.

Lachance said excessive makeup was only one of several behavioural issues with the suspended student.

Students, though, accused the school of stifling the boy's individuality. 

"We're protesting for his rights, but [also] the rights of everybody," said Simone Laforme, a Grade 11 student who took part in the protest.

"If an authority tells you what you are — because that's who he is — it's fundamentally wrong. I don't think it's good for his development."

Lauren McCallum/CBC

Friends of the boy say he is known for expressing himself through makeup.

"He likes to wear makeup. It is a form of art for him," said student Léo Nault.

Grade 11 student, Olivia Rideout, said she can't understand why her classmate was suspended.

"We're in a theatre school and we were literally taught how to be clowns in our first year. We have a makeup exam in our second year," she told CBC News.

"I think it's kind of ridiculous that they're shaming us for what they taught us."

Lauren McCallum/CBC

'We're not at a masquerade'

Lachance, the school's principal, justified the decision to remove the student because his makeup was an "eccentric" behaviour, which the code of conduct does not allow.

"Our job is to create limits, and then make sure those limits are respected," the principal said.

He said both girls and boys are allowed to wear "light" makeup, but this boy's makeup was excessive. "We're not at a masquerade."

Lachance said the protesting students will not be allowed to attend classes until they remove their makeup.