Short shorts long on controversy at Truro junior high

Raissa Tetanish
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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. Submitted

TC MEDIA

If you're going to be wearing shorts to school in Truro, you better do a length test. 

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."

Organizations: Truro Junior High School, Central Regional School Board, Truro Daily News

Geographic location: Truro, Chignecto

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Recent comments

  • Sharon Shaw
    May 14, 2014 - 09:34

    I am proud of the school for making this decision about shorts and other clothing. It is about time they informed dress code. I personally know of male teachers who are affected when young woman come to school partly clothed. The standard that the school has taken should be supported and welcomed by our families.

  • Town Girl
    May 13, 2014 - 20:16

    What I find most irritating about this whole controversy is that those who are so adamantly demanding respect are obviously not demonstrating mutual respect. Where is the respect for an administrative decision? Why challenge it? Perhaps the entire school population, including staff, should all just show up wearing whatever they are most comfortable in. Saying no to a child sometimes is OK! The youth in this photo has their fingers purposely curled up because they know the shorts are shorter than fingertip length which means they were well aware of the rule whether it was written or unwritten.

  • Jerry Cutler
    May 13, 2014 - 16:07

    Once again, some idiot civil servant feels the need to redefine the concept of "terminal stupidity". Delta, BC

  • Herry
    May 13, 2014 - 15:35

    Whaddaya know, ANOTHER school run by gestapo teachers ! I guess these IDIOTS forgot how to teach !!!!!!!

  • Debbie
    May 13, 2014 - 14:51

    I think that ,of all that is gone on at that School and still going on,The principal has a point !These teens should have shorts on that go at least to the knees.....I think the principal is looking at this from all directions!There is a lot going on with these teens .Texes being sent with dirty comments said to boys ....The parentS HAVE NO IDEA WHAT ALOT OF THESE TEENS ARE DOING AT TAHT SCHOOL!

  • Kaytlyn
    May 13, 2014 - 13:26

    The bigger concern here (as if the school sexualizing young girls isn't bad enough...) is that one of the students was being discriminated against for making visible scars caused by mental illness. I hope the Nova Scotia human rights commission will have something to say about this.

  • Sarah
    May 13, 2014 - 12:21

    Am I the only one who feels some concern for a school who tells the girls to cover up so they are not a distraction to the boys or to the male FACULTY MEMBERS? Why would grown adults be distracted by little girls in shorts? Maybe this problem is bigger than just girls wearing shorts...

    • Steve Roberts
      May 13, 2014 - 13:02

      The "distraction" for a male faculty member could include, "How do I avoid getting accused of ogling some student whose clothes aren't quite fitting his or her body?" or "How can this kid possibly learn when she's constantly fidgeting and fighting to keep covered all class?" Not every girl knows how to sit in a skirt, especially at the jr. high age where many girls are coming to grips - or not - with changing bodies. While it might be frustrating for a student to have to go home and dress in accordance with the school's expectations, it's a terrible no-win battle for the teacher who's accused of looking where he (or she) shouldn't.

    • Sarah
      May 13, 2014 - 18:00

      How do I avoid getting accused of ogling some student?.....simple....DON'T OGLE THEM. Let the MEN take responsibility for their OWN ACTIONS. I was raped at a young age. Let me tell you, it was NOT because of what I wore.

  • Sarah
    May 13, 2014 - 12:17

    What a step back for every woman out there who has fought for her right to breastfeed her child in public! It's a shame our female population are conditioned to cover up, carry their keys in their hand, and travel in groups at night, but our male population isn't taught some basic respect and comon decency.

  • Janet
    May 13, 2014 - 11:45

    Those shorts are TOO SHORT! kids need to be dressed at school! If you can't go to work dressed like that students shouldn't be going to school dressed like that. It is not unreasonable to ask her to change. I can't believe her mother even let her out the door with shorts that short. Put some clothes on your kid.

  • Kelli Skinner
    May 13, 2014 - 09:02

    How do you enforce a rule that is not in the student handbook. How does a student know they are breaking a rule that they are not aware of! Stop blaming girls for creating distractions and start teaching boys to be respectful!!

  • Vee
    May 13, 2014 - 08:37

    Every student that goes to school in this school board knows that shorts have to be at least to the end of your middle finger when you hands are at your sides - and the shorts weren't for this girl. Moreover, banning short-shorts is not promoting 'rape culture,' girls body shaming, or many of the other extreme comments the mother in question makes in her petition. What it does demonstrate is that girls (and boys alike) ought to dress with some modicum of modesty - especially in an environment where learning is the objective. Requiring students to cover their bodies for the 6 hours they're at school is not unreasonable.