WATCH ABOVE: Students at Centennial Collegiate Vocational Institute in Guelph are protesting after their principal’s use of inappropriate language. As Minna Rhee reports, they’re hoping to receive a sincere apology.
TORONTO — Teens, don’t dress “skanky.”
That message to students from a Guelph high school principal has started a debate over what is appropriate dress, and what is suitable language when speaking to teens.
Principal Scot Bishop reportedly advised students to keep it “scholarly, not skanky,” while speaking over Centennial Collegiate Vocational Institute’s P.A. system last week. He was talking to the teens about wearing appropriate clothing to class, and asking them not to dress provocatively.
Some students call it female body-shaming, while others support his stance.
A group of students staged a protest Friday. They rallied outside the school wearing signs and clothing with messages such as “my education is more important than what I wear” and “my body, my choice!”
“Using a word that has origins in slut shaming, objectification and things like that to describe a group of minors is disgusting — especially when it’s said by a 40-year-old man,” said Atticus Edwards, a Grade 10 student at the school who took part in the protest.
Principal Bishop reportedly apologized on Monday after criticism over his words.
“His apology, he said ‘a lot of people thought I was right, but to the people I offended, I’m sorry you were offended,'” said Edwards. “Instead of recognizing that what he did was wrong, he said ‘I’m sorry you were offended.’ And that’s not an apology, that’s just an excuse.”
Debate began on Twitter with the hashtag #TeamBishop, where those in support of the principal had their say.
Backlash over the incident has prompted the local school board to set up a focus group including students, parents, teachers and the administration to discuss the dress code and how the kids feel about it.
Maggie McFadzen, communications officer with the Upper Grand District School Board, told Global News the appropriateness of the principal’s language is “a consideration, I don’t know why he used it.”
The board’s appropriate dress policy on its website states “teaching should occur in a safe and respectful environment.” The board vows to support the unique needs of schools based on “community expectations” and the board will “support all schools in their expectations of appropriate dress.”
“Appropriate dress shall refer to student attire that is modest, free of symbols of hate, gang membership, or images which portray violence, death, abuse, alcohol, cigarettes, drugs, obscene words, political, racial, or sexual statements.”
With files from Minna Rhee