EDC Monthly: August

Each month we round up dress code (and dress code-adjacent) stories that we’ve encountered, or that we’ve been thinking about. (Revisit back issues from JulyJuneMay, and April.) Please send us suggestions!

We can’t tell you what Toronto’s October 22 election will look like, but we can tell you what eleven of the 43 registered TDSB Trustee candidates think about school dress codes. If your ward’s candidates haven’t provided responses, we encourage you to reach out to them to ask what they think about revising the Appropriate Dress policy. Let us know if you hear back!

In tennis news:

Alize Cornet was hit with a code violation at the US Open for realizing her shirt was on backwards and taking it off to put it on frontwards.

The first code violation issued to a player is a warning so it didn’t cost Cornet any points, but the fact that it happened in the first place is a joke, considering male tennis players are allowed to take their shirts off and put on fresh ones as often as they want during a match, without leaving the court. They often sit shirtless during changeovers and between sets and no one is scandalized

Serena Williams was barred from wearing a catsuit at the French Open.

The French Tennis Federation president, Bernard Giudicelli, says the tournament that Williams has won three times is introducing a dress code to regulate players’ uniforms because “I think that sometimes we’ve gone too far.”

In an interview in Tennis Magazine’s 500th edition, Giudicelli singled out the figure-hugging black suit that Williams wore this year at Roland Garros and said made her feel like a superhero.

Giudicelli said: “It will no longer be accepted. One must respect the game and the place.”

Cornet thinks Giudicelli’s shaming of Williams is especially egregious:

“What Bernard Giudicelli said about Serena’s catsuit was 10,000 times worse than what happened to me on the court yesterday, because he’s the president of French Federation and because he doesn’t have to do that,” Cornet said at Flushing Meadows Wednesday.

The 28-year-old Cornet added Giudicelli “lives in another time,” while elsewhere the drive for sexual equality in tennis was “on the right path” with “everybody working in the same direction.”

“Then we still have some people, like, the president of my federation that lives in another, you know, time, and can still do these kind of comments. They are totally for me shocking, and, I mean, I’m just saying what I think.”

Amira Rasool puts Giudicelli’s comments in context:

For centuries, black women have been exploited and criticized for their appearance, and subsequently placed in lesser positions socially, economically, and politically. The exploitative measures that forced South African-born Sarah Baartman into performing at European “freak shows” in the 17th century, and required enslaved African women to serve as reproduction machines, have manifested today in more covert ways. In the case of The French Open, the tournament appears to sanction Serena’s use of her stellar physical makeup to fill arenas, but does not feel comfortable allowing her to do so outside the boundaries of Europe’s conservative and white-washed physical standards. This is made even more clear by the recent revelation that white female tennis players, like Anne White, have worn catsuits in the past without any consequences or grand criticisms. It’s clear that this catsuit ban is one of the many attacks on black women’s physiques…

If you prefer a response to Giudicelli that is soaked in sarcasm, here’s Laura Wagner:

AWOOOO! I guess Bernie thinks the baggy burlap sacks that all other women’s tennis players are wearing will protect men from being forced to objectify a woman’s body. Either that or there’s something else about Serena Williams that he thinks doesn’t “respect the game and the place.” But what could it be???

In Arizona, Valentino refuses to take off a bandana that other (white) students are wearing with impunity, so a teacher calls the cops. The cops handcuff him, charge him with disorderly conduct, and detain him for six hours.

The school policy that enabled the teacher to harass Valentino in the first place is not dissimilar from provisions that are common in TDSB school dress codes:

…the presence of any apparel, jewelry, accessory, or manner of dress or grooming that, by virtue of its color, arrangement, trademark, symbol, or any other attribute indicates or implies membership or affiliation with such a group [is prohibited].

In Houston, an elementary school sought to inspire students with the timeless words of Sydney Biddle Barrows:

Again: this message is spread in TDSB schools, too.

If you’re looking for back to school style inspo, check out BbyMutha talking about her personal style!

Trustee candidates and dress codes

You can’t choose your teachers, you can’t choose your principal and vice-principals… but, if you are of voting age, you CAN choose your Trustees!  

The fact that we elect Trustees makes public education democratically administered and accountable to the local community. You elect a Trustee who represents the interests of the residents of their Ward at the Toronto District School Board as part of a Board of Directors. They hire the Director of Education, who in turn makes a lot of the major decisions that influence the tone and direction of the school board. They also create and review policies that affect students’ day to day school experiences. And they can help parents understand and navigate the school system by holding local meetings, townhalls, and being available to listen to concerns.

Who gets to sit at the table as a Trustee has a huge impact on our lives as students, teachers, and parents. We encourage you to do your research about who is running for Trustee in your ward. If you’re not sure which ward you are in, check out the map below.

Screen Shot 2018-08-30 at 9.21.39 AM.png

If you are of voting age, make sure that you vote on October 22. If you aren’t of voting age, discuss the Trustee elections with the adults in your life, and help them understand the education issues that are important to you.

This month we reached out to all the TDSB Trustee Candidates for whom we could find email addresses, and asked them this question:

Do you support revising TDSB Policy P042 (Appropriate Dress) so that it aligns with equity and human rights, and so that it incorporates greater opportunity for student voice in dress code development, review, and revision?

If your ward’s candidates haven’t provided responses, we encourage you to reach out to them to ask what they think about revising the Appropriate Dress policy. Let us know if you hear back!

Paul Lewis, Ward 2

Shawn Rizvi, Ward 2

Heather Vickers-Wong, Ward 2

Felicia Seto-Lau, Ward 3

Helen Kennedy, Ward 4

Hugo-Vladimir Vallecilla, Ward 6

Thomas Gallezot, Ward 8

Shelley Laskin, Ward 8

Nila Gupta, Ward 9

Andre Papdimitriou, Ward 9

Connor Pierce, Ward 9

Tania Principe, Ward 9

Rachel Chernos Lin, Ward 11

Amara Possian, Ward 11

Trixie Doyle, Ward 14

Deepti Neto, Ward 14

John Lee, Ward 15

Michelle Aarts, Ward 16

Senai Iman, Ward 19

Roy Hu, Ward 21

Kirsten Doyle, Ward 22

Robert Marshall, Ward 22


EDC Monthly: July

Each month we round up dress code (and dress code-adjacent) stories that we’ve encountered, or that we’ve been thinking about. (Revisit back issues from JuneMay, and April.) Please send us suggestions!

Give Doug Ford credit: he and his enablers took office here in Ontario at the end of June and have been tirelessly setting fires ever since. Imagine what he could accomplish if someone told him he’s supposed to be a Premier and not a pyromaniac!

🔥 🔥 🔥 🔥 🔥

Almost 500 Ontario teachers have pledged to prioritize the safety and well-being of students regardless of what DoFo and co. demand. One of them is Kate Curtis, co-author of our guide to changing dress codes.


Several school boards have also pledged that “important and relevant sex-ed lessons will be included in classrooms regardless of the health and physical-education curriculum in place this fall.” The TDSB’s statement is pretty dope!

Nadine Thornhill will cover the sex-ed component of the 2015 health and physical education curriculum via Youtube. Sabrina Cruz reacts to the proposal that we return to the 1998 version on Youtube. Sidrah Ahmad writes about why skipping sex ed is dangerous. Friend of the EDC collective Rayne Fisher-Quann reads an open letter to D.F. at the March for Our Education she co-organized.

And after all that, Education Minister Lisa Thompson gives an amazingly unintelligible interview about what students will actually be taught come September. Imagine what she could accomplish if someone told her she’s supposed to be a politician and not a performance artist! (Btw, Ms. Thompson doesn’t happen to have a yacht that could, in theory, be set adrift, does she?)

🔥 🔥 🔥 🔥 🔥

The Nishnawbe Aski Nation calls the decision to cut summer sessions to develop curriculum on Residential Schools “a step backwards,” and notes that “The new Ontario government signaled that improving relations with Indigenous Peoples is not a priority when it stripped the Ministry of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation of a dedicated minister in June.”

Librarian Desmond Wong compiled a collection of Indigenous education resources in response to the curriculum development cancellation: “If there is no commitment from our education authorities, we need to take on the commitment to have these conversations, to talk to the people in our families, our children, our nieces and nephews, about Indigenous education.”

Cherie Dimaline, Monique Gray Smith, and Tracey Lindberg donated sets of their books to Ontario classrooms in response to the curriculum development cancellation. Said the latter, “we are going to have to fight ignorance in new ways.”

🔥 🔥 🔥 🔥 🔥

Now Doug et al have pointed their flamethrowers at Toronto city council. Of course, it’s not like the city council’s response to recent gun violence was better than the provincial government’s response; the former voted to intensify its attacks on Black people, Indigenous people, and people of colour.

🔥 🔥 🔥 🔥 🔥

Give Douglas R. Ford and his cheerleaders credit: they’ve clearly communicated whose province this is. Lombray Ball gets it: “I don’t give a fuck. You don’t tell me what to do in my province… You don’t ask me a fucking question. It’s my fucking province.”

🔥 🔥 🔥 🔥 🔥

Dougie and his cronies campaigned on the slogan “For The People,” but “IDGAF It’s My Fucking Province” would have been much more apt. Where does that leave those of us who do give a fuck?

First, let’s keep breathing.

Second, let’s continue to try to show up for each other.

Then, it’s back to stoking fires of our own.



❤️ ❤️ ❤️ ❤️ ❤️

EDC Monthly: June

Each month we round up dress code (and dress code-adjacent) stories that we’ve encountered, or that we’ve been thinking about. (Revisit back issues from May and April.) Please send us suggestions!

Just in case you haven’t heard: the TDSB’s Appropriate Dress policy is currently being revised, and we have high expectations!

The student activist group Not Just Rumours is working to change how incidents of teacher sexual misconduct are dealt with by the TDSB and by the province. We wrote about them in our last Monthly, and we presented delegations alongside them at May’s Governance and Policy Committee meeting. Since then, the Canadian Centre for Child Protection released the first ever national inventory of sexual assaults perpetrated by school employees in Canada. (The report is available on the CCCP website, and includes the voices of survivors.) And the Chicago Tribune published a detailed investigation into teacher sexual assaults in Chicago Public Schools. Both projects underscore how important the work of Not Just Rumours is — follow them on Twitter, like them on FB, sign their petition, please.

Congratulations to the Class of 2018! In Petaluma, California, Lulabel Seitz’s valedictory address was cut off when she referred to sexual assault on campus. In Covington, Kentucky, Christian Bales’ valedictory speech was rejected — even after his parents assured the principal that their son would follow the dress code for boys: slacks, dress shoes, dress shirt, no jewelry, no makeup. So Bales gave his speech after the ceremony, through a megaphone: “There will be more students like me… There will be more gender nonconforming students, queer students, trans students. That’s not going to stop.” (Unfortunately, his tribute to student activism included a shoutout to March for Lifers. I guess no one is perfect…)

Kevin Kodra’s grad photo is perfect:


But Victoria DiPaolo’s yearbook quote is still the GOAT:

Edmonton’s public school board voted unanimously to encourage school administrators to revise their dress codes “to remove references to girls’ or boys’ clothing and nix rules that could single out races, religions, or body shapes.”

Current dress codes vary. Harry Ainlay High School’s code says clothing should be “suitable for modesty”…

Speaking of modesty, Dr. Fern Riddell’s reaction to the Globe & Mail‘s decision to reserve the title “Dr.” for medical doctors prompted a fascinating post on the concept from Debbie Cameron.

Historically modesty has been seen, along with chastity, piety and obedience, as a quintessentially female virtue, a quality women should cultivate not only as evidence of their goodness, but also as a mark of their femininity. Today the concept of modesty is most strongly associated with religious dress-codes, but in the past it regulated every aspect of a woman’s conduct: its demands dictated not only what she wore, where she went and how she spent her time, but also – and for my purposes most significantly – how she spoke.

Though as Harry Ainlay High School demonstrates, today it isn’t only religious dress codes that attempt to enforce female modesty…

A couple days ago, the Alice Munro bench was installed in Clinton, Ontario.

Of course, before she became their “gem,” before they gave her a garish bench, Munro’s community attempted to make her modest — not for nothing was her fourth book called Who Do You Think You Are?

Anyway, all of this is just an excuse to reproduce a longish excerpt from Munro’s “Red Dress — 1946,” first published fifty years ago. “A school is a workplace,” or some variation thereof, is a common pro-dress code refrain; Alice Munro is an unflinching observer, and she knows that the idea that a school has one unambiguous meaning is an adult delusion:

At high school I was never comfortable for a minute… When I was asked a question in class, any simple little question at all, my voice was apt to come out squeaky, or else hoarse and trembling. When I had to go to the blackboard I was sure — even at a time of the month when this could not be true — that I had blood on my skirt. My hands became slippery with sweat when they were required to work the blackboard compass. I could not hit the ball in volleyball; being called upon to perform an action in front of others made all my reflexes come undone. I hated Business Practice because you had to rule pages for an account book, using a straight pen, and when the teacher looked over my shoulder all the delicate lines wobbled and ran together. I hated Science; we perched on stools under harsh lights behind tables of unfamiliar, fragile equipment, and were taught by the principal of the school, a man with a cold, self­-relishing voice — he read the Scriptures every morning — and a great talent for inflicting humiliation. I hated English because the boys played bingo at the back of the room while the teacher, a stout, gentle girl, slightly cross­eyed, read Wordsworth at the front. She threatened them, she begged them, her face red and her voice as unreliable as mine. They offered burlesqued apologies and when she started to read again they took up rapt postures, made swooning faces, crossed their eyes, flung their hands over their hearts. Sometimes she would burst into tears, there was no help for it, she had to run out into the hall. Then the boys made loud mooing noises; our hungry laughter — oh, mine too — pursued her. There was a carnival atmosphere of brutality in the room at such times, scaring weak and suspect people like me.

But what was really going on in the school was not Business Practice and Science and English, there was something else that gave life its urgency and brightness. That old building, with its rock­-walled clammy basements and black cloakrooms and pictures of dead royalties and lost explorers, was full of the tension and excitement of sexual competition…


Phase I of the TDSB’s review of Policy P042 (Appropriate Dress) began and ended at yesterday’s Governance and Policy Committee meeting. The committee discussed, and then approved, the recommendation that P042 be revised.

The committee’s decision was informed by no less than ten delegations on dress codes in the TDSB — six oral delegations and four written submissions. Each delegate described the deleterious effects that dress codes based on P042 have had on student wellbeing and student achievement. Each delegate called for an equity-based approach to Board dress policy. And each delegate mercilessly slayed. In their prepared statements and in their responses to committee members’ questions, delegates were articulate, and uncompromising, and totally convincing.

Serendipitously, the other major item on the agenda was a review of Board policies related to sexual harassment and misconduct. Student activists from #NotJustRumours, and parents from the same community, delivered delegations describing how current Board policies have failed, and how they want to see these policies change. They decried an institutional inability to deal with sexual harassment, and the collateral damage this inability does to students’ dignity. This after the dress code delegates had described institutionalized sexual harassment, as well as racial profiling, and the impact this has on students’ dignity. It was impossible to miss the connections between the two agenda items. And, given the fierce commitment of delegates for both items, as well as the thoughtful support of Trustees Ausma Malik and Shelley Laskin, it was impossible not to hope that meaningful change might actually come to this institution.

Check out the Board’s plan for for what’s left of the P042 review here. Some amendments to this plan were made at yesterday’s meeting; our understanding of the updated timeline is as follows:

  • ASAP: The executive superintendent of Equity, Engagement and Well-being, Jim Spyropoulos, will send a system letter to TDSB principals to inform them that P042 is under review, to invite them to consider their school-based codes in light of the new Equity Policy, and to instruct them regarding the interpretation of the current policy — for example, to point out that the current policy does not suggest that enforcement be carried out via public humiliation;
  • By September: Board staff will revise P042;
  • September 12: A draft of the revised policy will be presented to the Governance and Policy Committee, and subsequently shared with principals;
  • September – December: The draft of the revised policy will be the subject of public consultations for 90 days, and feedback from these consultations will be incorporated into the revised policy;
  • January 2019: A new draft policy will be presented to the Governance and Policy Committee;
  • February 2019: The new draft of the revised policy will be presented to the Board of Trustees for final approval;
  • Spring 2019: Information and training sessions will be conducted for TDSB staff affected by the new policy.

We plan to play a prominent role in this fall’s public consultations, and to hold everyone involved accountable to this timeline. We’ll need your help to do so. Keep an eye on this site, follow us on Twitter, like us on FB, subscribe to our newsletter — one way or another, please keep in touch!

What we want

Perhaps Policy P042 (Appropriate Dress) was written with good intentions. The school-based dress codes it has given rise to, however, have bad consequences. Those consequences — the discrimination produced by school-based codes — have been the focus of the End Dress Codes Collective to this point.

We will certainly continue to document and discuss the discrimination produced by dress codes. But now that the TDSB is beginning the process of revising Policy P042, we want to make clear what we are expecting at the end of this process. We know what’s wrong with the way things are; what follows is a very brief outline of the way we want things to be.

We want a dress policy that explicitly aims to produce equity.

The TDSB does not have to invent such a policy from scratch.

The Oregon chapter of the National Organization of Women created a Model Dress Code to help school boards through the process that the TDSB is now embarking upon. The premise of this Model Code is “Student dress codes should support equitable educational access . . .”

The NOW Model Dress Code is not merely theoretical. At the beginning of this school year, Evanston Township High School put it into practice. Rapturous press followed.

The National Women’s Law Center, in collaboration with twenty-one Black girls who are now or were recently students in D.C. public schools, just released Dress Coded: Black Girls, Bodies, and Bias in D.C. Schools. Their report includes policy recommendations, the first of which is “All schools should begin their dress codes with an equity policy.”

Closer to home, the Greater Victoria School District adopted a new dress code policy in April. Two highlights:

3.1 Students may attend school and school-related functions in dress of their choice under the conditions that the choices:
3.1.1 Conform with established health and safety requirements for the intended activity; and
3.1.2 Do not promote drugs or alcohol; display offensive language or images; or encourage discrimination.

[Dress codes will be enforced] consistently and in a manner that does not reinforce or increase marginalization or oppression of any group based on race, sex, gender identity, gender expression, sexual orientation, ethnicity, religion, cultural observance, household income or body type and size…

It isn’t hard, and, given the above examples, it’s no longer novel: the TDSB’s dress code policy should be designed to encourage, rather than impede, equity.

We want staff and students to receive training in how to implement an equity-focused dress policy.

In Florida, a high school student is accused of violating the dress code because she is not wearing a bra. Her school’s Code of Conduct “does not say bras must be worn by female students.”

In Toronto, a high school student is disciplined for not wearing a bra. Her school’s dress code doesn’t say she has to wear a bra.

In Winnipeg, a three-year-old girl’s sundress is considered inappropriate for her nursery school. The school’s director refers to a dress code which does not, in fact, exist.

And back in Toronto, a middle school student is sent home because her hair is “too poofy.” The school’s principal makes reference to professionalism, but does not mention a dress code.

It is vital that Policy P042 be revised so that it encourages equity — but it isn’t enough. Dress-based discrimination happens in schools with or without dress codes. We think policies like P042 embolden the sorts of impromptu disciplining illustrated above — but we don’t think the revision of P042 will make incidents like these go away entirely.

Instead, the TDSB must commit time and money to training staff and students to understand the values behind a revised dress code policy. The Board must change the policy, and then do the relatively difficult work of changing how school staff practice. As it happens, the folks in the End Dress Codes Collective have extensive experience facilitating workshops for both teachers and students on this subject, and we are ready to help.

That’s what we want. Actually, we expect no less from a Board that prides itself on being “recognized as a world leader in equitable and inclusive schools.” Most importantly, it’s what TDSB students need to be successful and reach their full potential.


Tl;dr: TDSB Policy P042 (Appropriate Dress) will be revised over the coming months. The revision process begins at the Wednesday, May 30th Governance and Policy Committee meeting at 4:30 at the Board office at 5050 Yonge Street. Members of the public are welcome to present a delegation to the committee, either by speaking (for up to five minutes) or in writing. We’re calling on anyone interested to register to delegate (requests must be submitted by Monday, May 28th), and to tell the Board we want a policy that is designed to foster equity. The End Dress Codes Collective is eager to help with the delegation process, from registration to crafting a presentation. Please get in touch!

Since last summer, the End Dress Codes Collective has made a concerted effort to sit down with trustees, TDSB committees, and TDSB staff to argue for the revision of TDSB Policy P042 (Appropriate Dress).

This past winter, we came to understand that P042 would indeed be revised, but that the revision process would not begin until a yet-to-be-determined month in the 2018-19 school year.

When it comes to dealing with policies that perpetuate oppression, we don’t have a lot of patience. In March, three of us — one current student, one former student, one teacher — presented delegations to the Board’s Governance and Policy Committee, and asked that the timetable for the revision of P042 be expedited. We want it to start now.

We have just learned that the revision of P042 is starting NOW!

Well, next week. At next Wednesday’s Governance and Policy Committee meeting, phase one of the revision process will begin when the committee sets parameters for the process.

Members of the public — i.e. YOU! — are welcome to address the committee on Wednesday, by speaking for up to five minutes, or by submitting a written statement. We are calling on all interested students, former students, parents and guardians, and just anyone who cares about social justice, to register to delegate. (Requests must be submitted by Monday, May 28th.)

There will be further opportunities for public participation in the revision process in the coming months. But we’d love to begin with a bang! — to show the Board that we’re paying attention, and we’re impatient for a policy that, rather than referring to dangerously fuzzy concepts like “appropriateness” and “decency,” is designed to foster equity.

The meeting next Wednesday, May 30th, is at 4:30 at the Board office at 5050 Yonge Street. Please let us know if you have any interest in being a delegate, or if you’d like help registering to delegate or crafting a statement. We will be there, and we’d love to see you there, too!