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Home Opinion Finally, Halton School Board taking small steps to address teacher dress controversy

Finally, Halton School Board taking small steps to address teacher dress controversy

It has taken what seems like a lifetime, but the Halton District School Board may be making its first moves to deal with a teacher who has been appearing in class wearing a gigantic pair of prosthetic breasts. The Board’s failure to deal with the issue has resulted in ridicule from media across the world including late-night talk shows. In addition, Education Minister Stephen Lecce has demanded the board take action. Finally, trustees instructed staff to come up with a code of conduct that would address the situation. Interestingly, the board already has a dress code for students that prohibits the display of nipples or genitals but staff had told trustees a similar code for teachers could have legal repercussions

The Board has posted an agenda that contains a two-page policy statement that is up for discussion and public feedback.

Among other language the paper has two paragraphs that could be interpreted as justification for a teacher dress code:

“The purpose of this Policy is to consolidate and affirm existing expectations regarding staff professionalism, including dress and decorum, at board and school settings and at school-based activities, focusing on the importance of demonstrating, through personal presentation, respect for public education and each student’s right to learn in a safe, inclusive and accepting environment.

The Supreme Court of Canada has stated that teachers occupy a unique position of trust, confidence and responsibility in society, and exert considerable influence over their students as a result of their positions. The Court has recognized that the conduct of a teacher bears directly upon the community’s perception of the ability of a teacher to fulfil a position of trust and influence, and upon the community’s confidence in the public school system…”

Some critics and even the board Vice Chair are not happy with the lack of specificity in the proposed policy, but the board’s superintendent of human resources, Sari Taha told the Toronto Star that a more detailed policy will be developed based on feedback received.

Editor’s note: Following the publication of this story the Halton District School Board issued the following statement:

“The Halton District School Board has high standards and high expectations of the educators who work in all our schools. This particular policy will consolidate and affirm existing expectations regarding staff professionalism in school settings – and at school-based activities. We take immense pride in the inclusiveness, compassion, and respect for human rights that our students and their families have demonstrated during this time. We will continue to prioritize students by setting an example of a Board that is inclusive, tolerant, and rooted in the belief of upholding human rights for everyone that is a part of this community.”

The Board has posted a survey which will be up for two weeks from last Friday. Once the Board of Trustees has reviewed feedback from the consultation, they will vote on the policy. The board also said a more specific operational plan will be developed once the terms of the policy are agreed to by the board.

The board statement also noted that “all school boards in Ontario are currently in negotiations with teachers’ unions. This means school boards cannot legally make changes to working conditions for teachers until contracts have been ratified.”

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