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#endthedresscode End the Dress Codes in TDSB Schools

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We are Andy, Erin and Kerin - founders of Project Slut and recent high school grads. We’re a group of young women urging the Toronto District School Board (TDSB) to end school dress codes.

Our petition is building on success at our own high school Central Technical School, which recently abolished its dress code policy after months of campaigning and dialogue.

Why do we want to end school dress codes? Because they target student’s appearance and police young women’s bodies. We know firsthand that dress codes reinforce the view that we are “asking for sex” - and puts the blame on targets of sexual harassment and violence.

People often ask us: Don’t you think we need dress codes to teach students to dress appropriately? Won’t Student’s come to school wearing very little?

Our societal views on what is appropriate is often rooted in sexist, racist and homophobic sentiments. We focus so much on how students present themselves, instead of reflecting on whether it’s actually our attitudes that are problematic. 

It’s not the intention behind dress codes that is harmful, it’s the implementation of dress codes, which often is strengthening of stereotypes and further labeling of individuals from a very young age.

Self expression comes in many forms, and how we dress can be fundamental to our identities. Dress codes tell us that we are something to be adjusted, tailored, hidden. Schools should demonstrate trust and respect for their students.

When we were students, we saw how dress codes targeted female presenting individuals. Teachers told women things like “cover up your bosom” and “don’t show your shoulders.” They made moral judgements, saying that students should be ashamed of how they dress.

Here are just a few examples of how TDSB dress codes perpetuate stereotypes today:

  • Young women of color are told to dress respectfully aka. not “ghetto” or “ratchet”.
  • Male students are seen as automatic threats. Hat policies are disproportionately reinforced on young Black men who are stereotyped as “thugs” and “criminals”.
  • “Fat” bodies are told to cover up when wearing the same outfit that would pass as appropriate on a “thin” body.
  • Trans and gender nonconforming folks are told to that their appearance makes others “uncomfortable.” They face comments that reinforce the gender binary LIKE “You should dress more like a boy”, “You’re confusing people”.

This sends the wrong message. It tells young people that slut-shaming, victim blaming, harassment and bullying people about their appearance is ok. It’s not ok. It made us wonder if these same students were sexually harassed by their peers, how would they be able to approach their teachers for support?

We want classrooms that foster consent culture, respect and inclusivity. It’s an important step towards ending rape culture. As our fellow advocates Lia and Tessa founders of the We Give Consent campaign say - “My Dress is Not a Yes!”

Please sign and share our petition and join our efforts to make Toronto schools inclusive spaces to learn.

The TDSB has numerous policies that aim to create safe spaces in schools. Dress codes are in not in line with these policies. The TDSB Appropriate dress policy P042 uses vague language and allows every school to have their own distinct interpretation of the dress code. This makes for inconsistent implementation, and lack of accountability across the board.  We want to work with the TDSB school board, administration and our peers to open up a dialogue about dress codes.

We plan to deliver this petition to the Toronto District School Board, Minister of Education Liz Sandals and Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne.

To support us, please sign, share and spread the word to #endthedresscode

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