WATCH ABOVE: Students in Etobicoke are protesting after a student was told to not wear crop tops. Student Alexi Halket tells Alan Carter how #croptopday came to be.
TORONTO – Students at a high school in Etobicoke showed up in crop tops Tuesday, baring their stomachs and shoulders in protest after school officials hauled 18-year-old Alexi Halket out of class to tell her the outfit she was wearing was inappropriate.
Halket said she was told by the principal at the Etobicoke School for the Arts on Monday that her top, a sleeveless, turquoise-and-black patterned crop top, was “inappropriate” for the classroom because it showed her bare midriff.
The teen created a Facebook page to launch her protest and was soon joined by others – both girls and boys – who planned to wear crop tops to school the following day.
On Tuesday, Halket told Global News she believed dress codes were created “to cover up girls so boys won’t be distracted in class.”
“I think it’s become normalized,” she said in an interview out front of her school. “And it’s something that we don’t really think about.”
Halket said she was frustrated she was pulled out of class because boys in the classroom might be distracted by her clothing choice.
“Female students are getting taken into the office because they are wearing a shirt that resembles a sports bra, but there are males in gym class and on the back field running around shirtless and that double standard is not OK,” she said.
Some took to Twitter using the hashtag #croptopday to post pictures of themselves wearing crop tops and post messages of support in solidarity with Halket.
The Toronto District School Board says students need to dress appropriately for school and what Halket wore wasn’t considered appropriate.
The school’s principal, Rob McKinnon, told the Canadian Press he sent teachers a note preparing them for today’s protests.
“I encouraged teachers to talk about this with their students,” MacKinnon said. “It’s about appropriate dress for this setting, not sexualizing students or objectifying them, but what’s OK in school.”
He added that he sat down with about 200 students in the school’s library to discuss the issue.
What’s appropriate for the classroom and what’s not has always been a contentious issue at schools. In Moncton, N.B. a teen was given detention for breaking her high school’s dress code after wearing a full-length halter dress.
Lauren Wiggins, 17, posted a photo of the floor-length dress, which revealed her shoulders, bra strap and upper back and a tattoo to her Facebook account.
In a letter to her vice-principal defending her choice of clothes she wrote: “if you are truly so concerned that a boy in this school will get distracted by my upper back and shoulders, then he needs to be sent home and practise self-control.”
She was ultimately given a one-day suspension for writing the letter.
Halket, meanwhile, continued to be defiant of suggestions made by teachers and her principal that she dress for a “professional environment.”
“I have to by law go to school, and so I feel like limitations put on myself because other people may be distracted or offended by something as simple as a shoulder, which shouldn’t be offensive or inappropriate at all, the fact that that is more important than a female’s education like when they are taken out of class, I feel like that is taking it a bit too far,” said Halket.
*With files from Global’s Alan Carter