Updated: Fredericton high school students suspended for dress code protest

Written by Tracy Glynn on November 28, 2014

Walk_out

Fredericton high school students walk out in protest of their school’s dress code and the lack of a sexual assault policy on Nov. 21, 2014. Photo by Tracy Glynn.

Fredericton – Fredericton High School (FHS) students including Fredericton Youth Feminist’s Sorcha Beirne have been suspended for three days for organizing a walk out against the school’s dress code and the lack of sexual assault policy last Friday, Nov. 21.

The students were locked out by the school during the frigid walk out. Some students entered the school when the doors were opened to allow the students to go home. They took their protest to the administration’s office. The police were called and dispersed the student protesters, threatening them with arrest.

Beirne and other students involved with the walk out have also been banned from extra-curricular activities, including Safe Space (formerly the Gay-Straight Alliance) and graduation ceremonies for seniors.

Alexa Namit is a grade 12 student at FHS. “I can cope with three days suspension, and I can even cope with not going to the graduation ceremony. To me, the biggest thing is that I have been banned from Safe Space, and as a transgender student at FHS, this is the biggest blow, because Safe Space is exactly what it says on the tin, a safe place for MOGAI youth at FHS, a support program that we are literally entitled to, and taking that away is absurd and crosses the line,” says Namit.

Students are also expressing concern that they are being denied scholarship opportunities.

Many parents are opposing the disciplinary action being taken against the students.

Gia Milani’s daugther was one of the high school students suspended. She says there were 25 suspensions and she does not understand why some students were suspended and others not.

“My daughter is an honours student. She won the science fair for the province and attended the national science competition. She has received academic achievement awards and writing awards. She is a very bright young woman, and a leader. All of these young people all are,” says Milani.

“They are protesting because they are informed and smart. I find it mind boggling that the administration is not jumping aboard their bandwagon and empowering them, and creating a sexual harassment policy,  instead of trying to silence them. The administration is trying to hurt these young people by taking away things like Junior Achievement and the Feminist club and even graduation ceremonies by banning their extra curricular activities. It is ridiculous. I am concerned about the leadership at the school as a whole,” says Milani.

UNB Law Professor Jula Hughes has a daughter at FHS. She wrote FHS Principal Shane Thomas as soon as she heard of the suspensions.

“Sexist dress codes have no place in such an environment, though I appreciate that we may hold different opinions on whether the current dress code should be so described. But where there can be no dispute is that students should be encouraged to engage as informed and critical citizens with the world that surrounds them, and for students, a large part of that world is the school. As a society, we do not suffer from an overload of critical thinkers,” wrote Hughes to Principal Thomas.

More to come.

From the Margins interviews Fredericton Youth Feminists on the dress code and their walk out. [Audio].

Read Fredericton high school students take action against dress code, demand sexual assault policy.

UNB Gender and Women’s Studies is holding a talk about dress code politics on Dec. 2 at 7:00pm. Room TBA. Panel participants will include Adrianna Durley, FHS Feminist Club; Dr. Dale Ballucci, Department of Sociology; Dr. Amanda Benjamin, Faculty of Education; Dr. Linda Eyre, Faculty of Education; and Dr. Linda McNutt, Faculty of Arts. Stayed updated on Facebook event page.

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