TRURO - If you're going to be wearing shorts to school, you better do a length test.
The mother of a female student at Truro Junior High School took a picture of her daughter in a pair of shorts she wore to school last week. The student was told not to wear the shorts to school again.
In response to parents and students claiming some girls at Truro Junior High School were made to change for wearing shorts, the Chignecto-Central Regional School Board's spokesperson confirmed there are guidelines to follow.
"It's not in the student handbook, but there is a guideline that all our middle schools in the Cobequid Family of Schools follows," said Debbie Buott-Matheson. "When the student stands up, whether it's female or male, and put their hands down at their sides, where their fingertips lay is the guideline. Shorts can't be any shorter than that."
The guideline goes not just for shorts, but dresses and skirts as well, and also includes faculty.
"If a student is taller than another, they may be wearing the same shorts but they will fall shorter because they are taller," she added. "Faculty never want to look at someone and say, ‘you can't wear that.' It's unfortunate that it has come to that, and it's unfortunate because no one wants to feel their personal expression is being stifled."
She said, however, that school is a learning environment and staff is in place to make decisions to make that learning environment comfortable for all students, and non-distracting.
A number of students and parents contacted the Truro Daily News newsroom about some female students at the school being made to change for wearing shorts.
"My daughter sent me a text (Friday) morning saying that she got in trouble for wearing shorts," wrote a mother of a Grade 8 student. "I went to the school to speak to the vice-principal and she informed me that the shorts were too short."
The mother, who didn't want to be identified or to identify her daughter, told the vice-principal that she didn't feel they were.
"They are in no way short, nothing is exposed and they fall at an acceptable length," she wrote. "I told her that I completely disagreed and that my daughter would continue to wear those shorts and her other ones to school."
A student also wrote to the Truro Daily News, stating she had been one of about 50 girls to wear shorts that day and also said a few "were driven home by faculty members" to change.
"We feel that this is not right," she wrote. "The faculty say we need to cover ourselves up so that we ‘don't distract male students and/or faculty members.' Why can't they stop teaching us to cover up and start teaching the guys to respect us?"
A number of female students chose to wear shorts to school again on Monday, including the mother's daughter who was again called into the office.
"These girls are being told that they can't wear shorts because it is distracting to male students and teachers. Our girls are being victimized for wearing shorts ... it's like they have to change their way of dressing because it makes men uncomfortable ... but it's OK for men to "ogle" our daughters," she said.
Buott-Matheson said when a school has an issue with dress code, for example if a male student is wearing pants low enough to see his underwear, it isn't about singling out students.
"It may be a judgment call on behalf of the administration. That's what they are there for, to help monitor the school environment and to make it so it isn't uncomfortable or distracting," she said.
While the guidelines aren't included in the junior high school's student handbook found online, it does include a section on ‘consequences of failing code of behaviour,' which includes suspension.
The mother said her daughter was told she could face suspension.
"She is not to wear shorts that fall mid-thigh ... which I thought hers did," she wrote. "She will be suspended next time. No more chances because she is being defiant."
An online petition has been started to have both the school board and school ‘change their stand on the dress code and re-evaluate the reasons that our daughters are being given for not being allowed to wear shorts.' The petition can be found here.