French Catholic school board apologizes for dress code crackdown at Orléans high school

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The dress-code crackdown displayed by administrators at a French Catholic high school in Orléans on Thursday “is not acceptable,” according to the board’s director of education, who apologized for the clothing blitz that singled out several girls.

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Marc Bertrand issued a public statement on Saturday, a day after hundreds of students protested outside of Béatrice-Desloges high school condemning the inspections.

“All students must absolutely be treated with dignity and respect,” Bertrand said in the statement. “No student should be subject to such a check of their clothing and even less be challenged in front of their peers. The strategy employed by the school last Thursday unfortunately does not reflect these values ​​which are very dear to the CECCE (Conseil des écoles catholiques du Center-Est). ”

Bertrand confirmed much of what students reported: staff took students, mostly girls, into the hallway to check the length of their shorts. Some students were asked to bend their knee to check if their shorts met the school dress code, which says the shorts and skirts must go down to at least mid-thigh.

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No student was told to bend over and there were no shorts measurements taken with a ruler, Bertrand’s statement said.

Protesting students described their embarrassment being brought into the hall for a clothing inspection.

Bertrand said many students felt degraded and humiliated.

Students from Béatrice-Desloges Catholic High School protest on Friday, May 13, 2022, in response to a dress-code blitz the day before.
Students from Béatrice-Desloges Catholic High School protest on Friday, May 13, 2022, in response to a dress-code blitz the day before. Photo by Errol McGihon /Postmedia

There was another layer of controversy when Ottawa police showed up. Officers arrested one boy, who said they didn’t go to school, with trespassing and he was later released without charges.

According to Bertrand, police were at the protest for public safety.

“Many of the students dispersed into the adjacent street where vehicles were circulating at the point where the traffic was stopped,” Bertrand said. “The police services then arrived on the scene to ensure the safety of the students.”

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A small group of students who don’t attend a school in the French Catholic board showed up to the protest, Bertrand said. Police intervened when they refused to cooperate, he said.

No student of Béatrice-Desloges was charged, Bertrand said.

According to Bertrand, the students “calmly returned to the school” after superintendent of education Jason Dupuis addressed them at 12:45 pm

Dupuis will be at the school again on Monday if students want to share their concerns.

“The administration of the Conseil des écoles catholiques du Center-Est is sincerely sorry for this outcome and wishes to apologize to the students and families who have been disturbed by these events,” Bertrand said in his statement. “Follow-ups are underway with all of the CECCE schools to ensure that such a situation does not happen again.”

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Sophie Labbee, 18, was one of the students who staged a protest in front of Beatrice-Desloges high school Friday.
Sophie Labbee, 18, was one of the students who staged a protest in front of Beatrice-Desloges high school Friday. Photo by Jacquie Miller /Postmedia

Grade 12 student Sophie Labbée said Saturday she’s grateful that the school board admitted what happened on Thursday was wrong.

“I think that we all appreciate the apology because I think this is the first time the school board has acknowledged that they did something wrong and it’s not an answer that protects themselves instead of students,” Labbée said. “I think we have to find out and see how legitimate it is, but it’s definitely a step in the right direction.”

Danika Verdon, a Grade 11 student, said she was slightly surprised to see an apology from the school board. Students still want to see consequences for teachers involved the dress code inspections, Verdon said.

The dress-code crackdown drew scorn from local politicians, who addressed it on social media.

Coun. Catherine Kitts, whose Cumberland ward includes the high school, questioned the police intervention and added, “School action against young women who were aggressively targeted for dress code violations also appears wildly inappropriate.”

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Stephen Blais, the incumbent Liberal candidate for Orléans in the Ontario election, said, “Women should never be judged for what they wear.”

The French Catholic school board trustee for the zone, Dan Boudria, said, “Our students should be treated with dignity and respect. Such a situation should never happen again. ”

Asked about the school controversy during his stop at the Tulip Festival on Saturday, Mayor Jim Watson said it was “very distressing” for the students and their families.

“I don’t have all of the facts and I’m not sure (about) a call for a police presence, but that’s the call by the school board and the police to make,” Watson said.

“My hope is that they come to some amicable solution so this thing doesn’t fester and ruin the good relationship teachers and students should have with one another.”

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