Boys and girls spar over school's warm-weather dress code

Shorts like these are prohibited at a Canadian high school where the dress code has sparked debate.

Story highlights

  • Girls and boys posted complaints about classmates' skimpy clothes distracting them from studies
  • Debate occurred at a high school in Breton, Alberta

(CNN)As summer approaches, the weather in Breton, Alberta, is heating up. And so is a controversy about the summer dress code at the Canadian town's high school.

It all started last week when some Breton High School students posted a sign in the girls' bathroom.
    It said: "When you interrupt a girl's school day to force her to change clothes, or send her home because her shorts are too short or her bra straps are visible, you are telling her that making sure boys have a 'distraction free' learning environment is more important than her education. Instead of shaming girls for their bodies teach boys that girls are not sexual objects!!!"
      Not to be outdone, some of the school's boys found out about the sign and posted their own in response.
      "When you wear little to no clothing and dress provocatively because it's 'too hot out' or because you think it's 'attractive,' you are putting boys at risk of having a distracting working environment and saying 'Your clothing is more important than their education,'" it said. "Instead of dressing like a THOT, value the male education and dress conservatively."
      Photos of the signs were taken by students and obtained by Global News, a Canadian news site.
      Within an hour and a half, both signs were taken down and a school-wide letter from the principal was sent home to parents. The next day, the school principal spoke to students, reminding them of the importance of respectful discourse.

      A teachable moment?

      Wild Rose School Division Superintendent Brad Volkman said the derogatory acronym the boys used on their poster -- slang for "that ho over there" -- was "clearly out of order" and was addressed immediately by the school's principal.
      "It's never appropriate for anybody, male or female, to blame anybody else for making them make a poor choice in terms of treating someone else with disrespect ... we all as individuals have to be monitoring ourselves, and we cannot use anyone else as an excuse for our behavior," Volkman told CNN.
      "Beyond that, the girls are making a very clear case of how they feel about the dress code and the boys, in all sincerity, are very clearly making their case and this is part of the discourse that happens in society," he added. "It's a teachable moment for our student body. We do not want to shut down good conversation, we want to help kids on how to have a proper discourse on controversial issues in a respectful way.
      Volkman said the school's dress code was developed with the school's student government several years ago, but calls this an opportunity to revisit the policy.
      "Our school district says you do need to dress in a respectful way, but it can vary from school to school," he said.
      Volkman says this conversation comes up naturally every spring as the days get warmer, since the schools in rural areas are not air conditioned.
      "When we come to May or June, temperatures start to warm up and students challenge those rules a bit. There was not even a specific incident that started this -- the girls are just getting frustrated and disagree with the dress code and wrote about it," he said.

      What the dress code says

      The school's dress code prohibits short skirts and shorts, along with exposed bra straps. It also states that cleavage and navels should be covered, and that pants or shorts should be pulled up so that underwear is not exposed.
        The policy goes on to say that any students not following the dress code will be required to change their clothing or be sent home.
        "Many students will find there is a dress code where they work, depending on the kind of work they go into. So in some respects the school is kind of a preparation ground for the world of work," Volkman said.