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Principal apologizes in letter to students, parents for Waterdown High dress code announcement

Hamilton police say they are investigating sexual assault allegations at Waterdown District High. Google Maps

The principal of a Waterdown school has apologized to parents following a morning announcement about the student dress code days after Hamilton police launched a sexual assault investigation tied to the learning facility.

Waterdown District High’s Theresa Sgambato issued the letter on Thursday night and said the school regretted the timing of the notice reiterating policy on appropriate dress at secondary school.

“The timing of the announcement was insensitive to the ongoing concerns about sexual assault,” said an update for guardians on the probe and the outreach supports available for families.

Read more: Hamilton police investigating reports of sexual assault at Waterdown District High

Hamilton police revealed the investigation on Tuesday night and said the examination is tied to alleged victims coming forward and accusing an individual of violence and harassment.

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The school’s acting superintendent Gerry Smith could not reveal any specifics due to the investigation but said the person involved was “not a person in a position of authority” with the Hamilton Wentworth District School Board (HWDSB).

“We want anyone who may have been victimized by an act of sexual assault or abuse to know that we believe you,” Sgambato said in her letter on Thursday.

“For those who are survivors of sexual assault, please know that it is not your fault and there is no time limit on reporting the abuse to police.”

During a media availability on Thursday, education minister Stephen Lecce admitted he didn’t know the specifics of the probe but said they were “troubling” and that “a level of sensitivity needs to be adopted” around the accusations.

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“You know, optics are important,” Lecce said.

“I think words matter in these scenarios. But I also think action is most important, and I hope that there’s a thorough investigation to hold those that are responsible to account.”

Read more: Hamilton city councillor calls for strategy to address youth gun violence

Lecce didn’t directly answer a query around Sgambato’s dress code announcement, but said the province has “zero tolerance” around incidents of sexual assault and that it would be “engaging the community, particularly students.”

“I’m sure many young female voices in that school would have a strong opinion, and I would always encourage leaders in our communities to listen to young people. I think they have really important recommendations to government.”

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