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Ottawa School Dress Code: Blitz board calls are unacceptable

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The board of the French Catholic school in Ottawa says the way the dress code was enforced in local high schools this week was unacceptable.

Marc Bertrand, Director of Education for the Conseil des coles catholiques du Center-Est (CECCE), said in a letter to families on Saturday that staff on the board met with students and teachers at Beatrice-Desloges High School on Friday following reports that some students, mostly girls, underwent a dress code check for the length of their shorts.

The school board staff arrived early Friday morning at the school to spend the day there and to meet with some students and staff members interested in shedding light on the situation, the letter said, in French.

Bertrand said an investigation revealed that school management members and certain staff members carried out the dress code and that an unspecified number of students, most of them female, were called into the hallways.

Some students were asked to bend their leg back at the knee while standing in order to check if the shorts they were wearing matched the dress code, Bertrand said.

He said no students were asked to bow down and no student attire was measured with a ruler, as described in some versions of events circulating online, but he acknowledged that many of the students felt degraded and humiliated.

This dress code verification strategy is not encouraged by CECCE and is not acceptable, Bertrand wrote. All students should be treated absolutely with dignity and respect. No student should be subjected to such control of his or her clothing, much less challenged in front of his or her peers. The strategy used by the school last Thursday, unfortunately does not reflect these values, which are very dear to the CCEC.

The board addresses the police response

Students in Beatrice-Desloges held a departure protest on Friday afternoon. During the incident, police arrived and the video showed an officer pushing a boy against a cruiser. Police said one person was arrested but released without charge or indictment.

Bertrand said police were called in to ensure safety as several students had moved on the road, stopping traffic. At one point, a small group of students from another school board arrived by car, circulated unsafely among the crowd and was uncooperative, Bertrand said, at which point police intervened. None of the Beatrice-Desloges students were arrested.

The protest ended at 12:45 and the students returned to their studies.

The administration of the Conseil des coles catholiques du Center-Est sincerely regrets this result and wishes to apologize to the students and families who have been disturbed by these events, Bertrand said. Follow-ups are ongoing with all CEC schools to ensure that such a situation does not recur.

Bretrand said Education Supervisor Jason Dupuis would be at the school Monday to follow up any concerned students or their parents.

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