MONTREAL – It all started when Grade 11 student Lindsey Stocker was singled out by Beaconsfield High School officials for the length of her shorts.
“I was in violation for showing my legs,” she said.
“And that, point blank, is a problem.”
Last week, Stocker had decided to wear a pair of shorts, the length of which two vice-principals decided was unacceptable during a tour of the school.
This was determined during a “finger-length test,” where school officials apparently asked students to stand up with their arms at their sides. If the girls’ fingers hung past the length of their shorts, the shorts were considered too short for school.
“It was in front of my entire class,” Stocker said. “I felt attacked, it was humiliating.”
Stocker told Global News that she felt that the school rule was imposed arbitrarily.
“They can pick and choose at random… which girls are filling out their clothes more…”
But what upset her even more were what she felt were the wider implications of the type of rules that focus on what girls are wearing and not on boys’ behaviour.
“There’s a huge rape culture that educational systems aren’t really paying attention to.”
“They’re actually contributing to it without realizing it.”
She said that she had been affected by the recent massacre in California, where 22-year-old Elliot Rodger opened fire on a group of students after publishing a manifesto, in which he laid out his plans to exact revenge for being rejected by women.
“He didn’t pull that out of nowhere… There are girls everyday, girls in my grade, that go through, not fun things.”
Frustrated because she felt school officials did not give her an opportunity to state her case, Stocker printed off several posters and hung them up around the school.
The posters read: “Don’t humiliate her because she is wearing shorts. It’s hot outside. Instead of shaming girls for their bodies, teach boys that girls are not sexual objects.”
Although these were quickly removed by school authorities, photos of the poster were shared widely online.
Stocker was later suspended for one day for her actions.
Watch: Lindsey Stocker describes why she protested the dress code
School board response
Steven Colpitts, schools director for the Lester B. Pearson School Board, told Global News that Stocker was not suspended for breaking the dress code. He explained that dress code violations often provided learning opportunities about hypersexualization.
“It needs to be clear that this is always an opportunity for the school to make it a learning situation for the students,” he said. “To sensitize them about hypersexualization, which is often a topic that is discussed and the students are well aware of.”
He also noted that Lindsey Stocker had been at the school for five years and knew the rules of the school.
“She should have known better than wearing those shorts.”
As for the finger-length test that Stocker and fellow classmates were asked to do, Colpitts suggested that school vice-principals were just following orders.
“The administrators came into the classroom and did what they’re expected to do.”
He would not provide details as to why Stocker had been suspended but did suggest that school authorities did not agree with the way Stocker handled the incident.
“There’s different ways of not agreeing with things that happen at the school. There’s always the right way of going about it,” he noted.
“There is an avenue for students to express their opinions. This wasn’t followed.”
Watch: Steven Colpitts talks about how dress code violations are treated
Although Stocker was not suspended for what she was wearing, Suanne Stein Day, the chairman of the Lester B. Pearson School Board, told Global News that the dress code was in place for good reason.
“What we’re doing in the school is trying to prepare students for their futures in the world,” she said.
“Every school has a dress code. At Beaconsfield High School, it’s a little more lax.
“They are allowed to wear whatever they want, but underwear must not show, midriffs must not show. This goes for boys and girls by the way.”
Stein Day admitted that every student had been asked to stand up to see what they were wearing that day.
“‘Tis the season,” she noted.
LBPSB chairman Suanne Stein Day on the importance of dress codes
She didn’t agree that this experience was degrading in any way.
“She says she was humiliated and I guess that suits her story.”
Stein Day then suggested that the grade 11 student’s future may be compromised because of her protest against the dress code.
“The way she delivered her message was inappropriate. I feel a little bit sorry for her because this is going to be sticking with her for her future,” she said.
“If she goes to apply for a job and someone sees this on her Twitter or on her Facebook, it may affect her future possibilities.”
As for Lindsey Stocker, she seemed unrepentant.
“If I’m going to be held back by this in my education, I feel that says more about the education system than it does about me.”