REVISED! POLICY! APPROVED!

At the May 22 Board meeting, TDSB trustees voted twenty to two to approve a revised Policy P042, now called the Student Dress policy. Trustees acknowledged that the revision of P042 was precipitated by the students who visited the May 30, 2018 Governance and Policy Committee meeting, and by the generations of student activists that they represented.

We’ll try to put together a more substantial post soon; and we’ll begin to shift our focus to ensuring that the revised policy is what’s enforced beginning in September 2019. But for now, we’ll end with an excerpt from the policy’s Rationale:

Historically, school dress codes have been written and enforced in ways that disproportionately and negatively impact: female-identified students, racialized students, gender diverse, transgender and non-binary students, students with disabilities, socioeconomically marginalized students and Indigenous, First Nation, Métis, and Inuit students. Focused, explicit, persistent and determined action is required to challenge and overcome this history. The Student Dress Policy draws on the principles of equity, anti-oppression, anti-racism, non-discrimination, equitable and inclusive education.


The timeline so far:

PHASE I: COMPLETE!
PHASE II: IT’S ON
PHASE II: STILL GOING…
PHASE III: Internal Consultations (no blog post)
PHASE IV: CONSULTATIONS ARE OPEN!
REVISED! POLICY! APPROVED!

PHASE IV: CONSULTATIONS ARE OPEN!

Tl;dr: A draft of a revised Student Dress Code Policy is open to public consultation. Please spread the word, and please take part. We suggest focusing on the following:
✔︎ It’s awesome that the Board is doing this work.
✔︎ It’s awesome that gang attire is no longer mentioned — that’s one less excuse to racially profile.
 It’s awful that students are expected to cover their “chests” with opaque fabric — dress coding re: cleavage will continue apace.
 It’s a shame that the draft remains difficult to read.


The TDSB has posted a draft of a revised Student Dress Code Policy for public consultation.

We are thrilled that the process has come this far. And we want to be thrilled by the draft policy. But we’re not quite there yet.

On November 8, an earlier version of the draft was presented to the Governance and Policy Committee. The Committee instructed Board staff to make further revisions based on the discussion that ensued. The way we read it, the draft that has been posted for consultation doesn’t entirely follow through on that instruction.

Board staff were instructed to…

Excise the discussion of gang attire.
✔︎ The draft no longer mentions gang attire. This is a massive improvement; this is a huge win for students of colour, especially Black students. Prohibitions on gang attire currently provide justification for racial profiling in TDSB schools. Such prohibitions cannot be aligned with the Board’s commitments to equity.

More clearly spell out expectations regarding headwear.
✔︎ / ✘ The draft now states twice, rather than once, that headwear may be worn. But both references to headwear take the form of parenthetical remarks. We still think the policy on headwear could be — and should be — clearer.

Stipulate that “nipples,” rather than “breasts,” must be covered by opaque fabric.
✘ The latest draft changes “breasts” to “nipples and chest.” Unlike “breasts,” “chest” is gender-neutral. But exactly like a demand that “breasts” be covered by opaque fabric, the demand that “chests” be covered by opaque fabric will facilitate the continued monitoring of students’ cleavage by school staff. This is unacceptable. And at this point, it’s frustrating — it really feels like someone, somewhere, is deeply reluctant to give up the power to comment on students’ décolletage…

Make clear that the revised policy will be the dress code for every school in the system.
✘ The draft states that “This Policy establishes the student dress code for all schools.” But the stipulation that “Any restrictions to the way a student dresses must conform to the TDSB Student Dress Standards” suggests that schools might continue to draw up their own lists of restrictions within the framework of the Board policy. And if this policy will be the final word on dress in the TDSB, why all the references to student voice? Maybe we’re just obtuse, but we think the fact that the new policy puts an end to school-based codes remains obscure.

Simplify the language of the revised policy.
✘ The draft remains inaccessible. It should be — and can be — translated into plain language.


We remain hopeful that at the end of this process, the Board will adopt a Dress Code Policy that unambiguously promotes equity. In order for that to happen, you need to consult with them!

Click the link and fill out the survey as soon as possible, and then spread the word as wide as possible. Tell your social networks what you told the Board, and share End Dress Codes’ Twitter / FB / Insta posts.

A revised Dress Code Policy is up for consultation because students have spent years upon years engaging in creative, courageous, effective activism. Take this opportunity to contribute to their work!


The timeline so far:

PHASE I: COMPLETE!
PHASE II: IT’S ON
PHASE II: STILL GOING…
PHASE III: Internal Consultations (no blog post)
PHASE IV: CONSULTATIONS ARE OPEN!

PHASE II: STILL GOING…

TDSB staff presented a draft of a revised Student Dress Code Policy (P042) to the November 8 Governance and Policy Committee meeting. After hearing delegations from two EDCers, and after an approximately hour-long discussion, committee members voted to ask staff to do further revisions to the draft prior to releasing it for external consultation by November 30.

 

Our understanding is that the Committee expects that Board staff will:

  1. Hew more closely to the NOW model school dress code by stipulating that “nipples,” rather than “breasts,” must be covered by opaque fabric.
  2. Excise the discussion of “gang affiliation” which has, so far, survived the revision process.
  3. More clearly spell out expectations regarding headwear — i.e. make explicit that the days of zero tolerance for non-religious headwear are over. (Again, NOW is helpful here.)
  4. Simplify the language of the revised policy so that it can be read and understood by all TDSB students / stakeholders.
  5. Make clear that the revised P042 will be the dress code for every school in the system — separate, school-based policies will no longer be necessary.

The End Dress Codes collective raised items 1-3 via delegations. In response, one committee member wondered whether students would be allowed to wear “pasties” over their nipples. (Sigh.) The NOW model code stipulates that nipples must be covered with opaque material, and that students must wear a shirt. Thus, no pasties — but no dress coding regarding cleavage, either. In responding to the pasties-curious committee member, Board staff did not make this clear; we hope that it will become clear in their next draft.

We were immensely grateful to Trustee Shelley Laskin for backing us up on items 1-3. Trustee Laskin clearly understood our concerns, and made certain that they were taken up by Board staff; she made certain that our voices were heard. Not to get all partisan, but: we’re really glad that she was re-elected back in October!

Throughout the discussion of the revised P042, Board staff made clear that they had heard and been influenced by the ten delegations regarding dress codes that were presented at the May 30 G+P meeting. Props to them for listening, and to delegates for speaking up. We believe that participation in the coming consultations on P042 will be as important, as influential, as delegations to G+P have been. We will do everything we can to spread the word when consultations begin — please be ready to take part!


The timeline so far:

PHASE I: COMPLETE!
PHASE II: IT’S ON
PHASE II: STILL GOING…

PHASE II: IT’S ON

Tl;dr: A draft of a revised Policy P042 (now called the Student Dress Code Policy) is up! It looks great! Except for: 1) it calls for “breasts” to be covered and so makes it easy for school staff to keep coding girls’ cleavage; 2) it prohibits dress that references “gang affiliation” and so makes it easy for school staff to keep profiling students of colour; and 3) it doesn’t do enough to end prohibitions on hats and hoods. We’re calling on our supporters to raise these concerns in a written submission to the November 8 Governance and Policy Committee meeting (submissions should be in ASAP). We are eager to help with the submission process; please get in touch!


The TDSB is revising its Appropriate Dress Policy (P042). Phase I of the revision process began and ended back in May, when the Governance and Policy Committee approved the recommendation that P042 be revised. Now, Phase II is finally live.

A draft of a revised P042 — now called the Student Dress Code Policy — has been posted. This Thursday, the Governance and Policy Committee will decide whether it’s ready for external consultations.

We are thrilled to get a look at a revised policy. It’s been a long time coming! And there’s a lot to like in this draft. We don’t think it’s quite ready to go, though, and we need your help communicating our concerns to the Board.

First, just a few highlights. The revised policy…

  • foregrounds equity and student well-being;
  • asserts that students experience school as a social environment as opposed to a professional work environment;
  • warns against reinforcing or increasing marginalization;
  • asserts that dress code violations are minor on the continuum of school rule violations.

These points are crucial, and a policy that includes them is off to a great start!

Here’s where we’re concerned:

Section 6.1 (c) of the revised policy states: “Student dress must… Be worn in such a way that groin, buttocks, breasts and chest are covered with opaque fabric.” This is clearly inspired by the NOW model school dress code; but the NOW model reads: “Clothes must be worn in a way such that genitals, buttocks, and nipples are covered with opaque material. Cleavage should not have coverage requirements.” We think NOW is on much more solid ground here — the Board’s reference to “breasts” is gendered, and too general — it leaves the door open to dress coding re: cleavage, which is a common practice that we want a revised code to decisively end.

Section 6.1 (c) of the revised policy states: “Student dress must… Not denote, suggest, display or reference…gang affiliation…” The current policy prohibits “attire that indicates gang affiliation,” and thus gives rise to racial profiling. When we spoke to the Black Student Achievement Advisory Committee last winter, one of the members remarked on how difficult it is for police officers to keep up with how attire is used to signal gang affiliation. Teachers, in contrast, receive no training whatsoever regarding how to identify such attire. We want to see the reference to “gang affiliation” excised from a revised code. If that’s absolutely impossible, then the revised code must make clear that when it comes to attire that references gang affiliation, the burden of proof lies with school staff — school staff must be able to demonstrate that the attire in question is currently known to signal gang affiliation. Perhaps the revised code could instruct school staff to confer with the Integrated Guns and Gang Task force of the TPS — or, again, perhaps we should drop the pretence of having a clue what constitutes gang affiliated attire altogether, and give up this excuse to racially profile to boot!

Section 6.2 (g) of the revised policy states: “The… code must… result in barrier free access to the fullest extent possible (e.g. no zero tolerance head wear…)” This is a great example! Not least because, in our experience, concerns regarding head wear were top of mind for administrators upon receiving the August 30 system letter from the Board. But a revised code must explicitly spell out expectations regarding head wear, not bury them in a parenthetical — especially when 6.1 (c) states that student dress must “Not interfere with the safe operation of the school.” Currently, prohibitions on head wear, and the racial profiling that results, are usually justified with reference to “safety,” and we worry that the revised code doesn’t quite do enough to militate against this status quo. Again, why not just go with NOW?: “Students May Wear… Hats, including religious headwear; Hoodie sweatshirts (over head is allowed)… Students Cannot Wear… Helmets or headgear that obscures the face (except as a religious observance).”

These concerns are significant — they undermine the really good work that most of the rest of the revised policy does; they perpetuate the sexist and racist discrimination that made a revised policy imperative in the first place. If the revised policy as posted were adopted right now, we’d find ourselves fighting it in the same way and for the same reasons we’ve been fighting the current policy for years now.

Please help us ensure that we achieve the revised policy we want; please raise these concerns in a written submission to this Thursday’s Governance and Policy Committee meeting. Your submission can be as short or as long as you’d like; it can be scrappy or sloppy or both; you can use the language we’ve used here or use language all your own; you can add additional concerns of your own and / or omit some of ours. You should try to have your submission in by Tuesday afternoon (but honestly they’ll probably take late work). Let us know if you need any help navigating the submission process. Let’s get this thing right!

EDC Monthly: September

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 AugustJulyJuneMay, and April.) Please send us suggestions!


We finally know what the October 22 Toronto municipal election will look like. (To wit: not good!) The TDSB trustees that are elected in three weeks will eventually be the ones voting on the Board’s revised Appropriate Dress policy (an update on the timeline of the revision concludes this post). We’ve reached out to every candidate we can find an email address for to ask them where they stand regarding a revised policy: check out the responses we’ve received so far. If your ward’s candidates haven’t written back to us yet, feel free to give them a nudge on our behalf!


The monstrosity that arose from Ontario’s last provincial election — you know, DoFo and co. — has opened consultations on education in Ontario. (Sort of — an online survey and telephone town hall are still pending.) Read about them at a link tagged “for-the-parents” — not for-the-students, say, or for-the-province, even…


September’s student actions in response to DoFo and co.’s attacks on education were galvanizing. As the days grow shorter and and the attacks continue, consider browsing the #WeTheStudentsDoNotConsent hashtag when you need a jolt of adrenaline.


We left the May 30 Governance and Policy Committee meeting with the understanding that a revised Appropriate Dress policy would be submitted by Board staff at the September 12 G+P meeting. Now we’re waiting for word on whether we should hope to see it at the November 7 G+P meeting.

But while the Appropriate Dress policy hasn’t yet changed, the Board’s expectations regarding school dress codes most definitely have. Those expectations are clearly described in a letter that was sent to all system leaders, including all principals, on August 30. (If you’d like us to help you track down a copy of this letter, get in touch.)

In short, the Board expects schools to align their dress codes with the newly revised Equity Policy (P037) — that means they must not use dress codes to target students based on race, gender identity or expression, sexual orientation, ethno-cultural heritage, body size, or socioeconomic status. Principals have been explicitly instructed to “avoid rigid rules,” and to discard prohibitions that “perpetuate systems of racist, sexist or transphobic oppression.”

Again: these are not suggestions. These are expectations

If you are a teacher or a parent, ask the principal at your school or your child’s school how they are meeting these expectations. If you do not receive a satisfactory answer, the next step is to contact the school’s superintendent.

If you are a student, and you do not think that your school is meeting these expectations, consider asking a trusted staff ally to facilitate a conversation with your school principal. And if you are not satisfied by that conversation, contact your school’s superintendent.

If you are a student, a teacher, or a parent, and you’d like our support in doing this work, please do not hesitate to reach out. Thanks to students speaking up and organizing, and thanks to teachers and parents cultivating student voice and student power, we have won the strongest tool for combatting discriminatory dress codes that we have ever had. Now let’s use it!

 

TDSB instructs schools to revise dress codes!

Dear TDSB Students,

On August 31, the TDSB sent a letter to “system leaders,” including all school principals. The purpose of this letter is to clarify what the Board expects with respect to school dress codes: the Board expects that, while the Appropriate Dress policy is being revisedall school dress codes will be updated to align with the Board’s revised Equity Policy.

That’s not all:

  • The letter gives credit to the many student leaders who have fought discriminatory school dress codes over the past few years, and to the students, parents, and staff members who spoke about dress codes at the May 30 Governance and Policy Committee meeting.
  • It instructs administrators to seek out and respect student voice.
  • It makes a distinction between the respect due to everyone involved in discussions about school dress codes, and the respectability that is often invoked to justify discriminatory codes.
  • It calls on administrators to see school dress codes as teaching tools for talking about healthy relationships in terms of boundaries and consent.
  • It argues for an understanding of students’ experience of school as a social environment, as opposed to a professional work environment, and asserts that students need the freedom to express themselves at school.
  • It states that no dress code is an excuse for shaming or publicly humiliating students.

You know what? It’s honestly a legit letter!

What this means for YOU

And it means that if you find yourself feeling shamed, humiliated, harassed, policed, or profiled because of what you choose to wear to school, then someone hasn’t gotten the message; the Board’s expectations are not being met; the letter’s instructions are not being followed; your rights are being violated.

It means that if you feel like your sexuality, culture, or social identity is being suppressed by dress code enforcement, or if your school dress code is reinforcing racism, sexism, transphobia, homophobia, fatphobia, ableism, classism, or any other form of bias, prejudice, or discrimination, then something is wrong — and you can do something about it!

What to do if you’ve been unfairly dress coded

You can refer to the letter described here, the letter that your principal has received. You can refer to the Board’s recently revised Equity Policy. You can seek out a staff ally who you trust to help you fight for your rights. You can reach out to the End Dress Codes collective for guidance. You can monitor this website, and follow us on Insta / FB / Twitter. And you can spread the word — share this post, print and distribute the flyers below, and talk to your peers, your teachers, your principals, your parents, and your trustees about what you want, and what you deserve.

These are the dying days of discriminatory dress codes in the TDSB; together, we can hasten their demise and ensure that they are buried good and deep!

Sincerely,
The End Dress Codes collective

LetterToStudents