École Robert-Gravel has a gender neutral dress code

No more fussy rules about the length of shorts and skirts or the obligation to hide the shoulders and stomach: Robert-Gravel high school, in Mile End, just adopted a new dress code that is gender neutral.

Posted at 5:00 am

Ariane Kroll

Ariane Kroll
The press

Robert-Gravel, which offers a special program in the performing arts, is one of the few schools in the Montreal School Service Center (CSSDM) that doesn’t enforce a uniform. Her dress code, however, included prohibitions common in many establishments, such as skirts and shorts that were too short, leggings not covered by a dress or skirt, singlets with thin straps, and bare bellies.

All this disappeared from the new code that the school board adopted on Wednesday evening. A few guidelines remain: “underwear and [les] genitals must not be visible”, the “headgear” must remain in the locker and the outfit must be free of certain inscriptions (discriminatory, sexual, violent, etc.).


Maude Painchaud Major

There is an improvement, I am still very satisfied. I think it can give hope.

Maude Painchaud Major, mother of a Robert-Gravel High School student who lobbied against the old dress code

“Humble, I am very proud of my team,” said the school principal, Ronald Jean-Pierre, in his office.

However, the journey was not easy.

“Girls’ Body Check”

Shortly after his arrival, just over a year ago, Mr. Jean-Pierre the revision of the “too gendered” code, decided on last fall by a committee of teachers and specialists.

But meanwhile, the old code applied. Shocked by this document “completely archaic, sexist, really focused on controlling girls’ bodies”, and by certain interventions by teachers responsible for its enforcement, “mothers of young girls went to war in the first secondary”, says m.me Painchaud Major.

“What you have to understand is that there were teachers who thought exactly like those parents. We had to find a way to make everything work and for everyone to agree,” argues Mr. Jean Pierre.

In the late fall, the headmaster asked teachers to stop interfering with “every gender element” – ultimately leading to the suspension of the old code.

“We saw shoulders, spaghetti straps, bra straps”, but no “problematic” situation, he testifies.

At the end of an arduous process, marked by “an outrage” on “social networks”, but also “a wave of emails and positive messages from parents”, a draft code was presented at the end of April.

mme In particular, Painchaud Major suggested clarifying expressions such as “of a sexual nature”. “Is two women kissing a sexual drawing? If so, that’s a problem. †

“We definitely smile when we hear that,” says the director. “The service center and the Ministry of Education sent us posters of homosexuals kissing, it was seen in all schools, he recalls. Trust us ! †

crisis solution?

Should other public schools do away with their restrictive codes to avoid crises like the one in Père-Marquette last week?


Ronald Jean-Pierre, principal of Robert-Gravel High School

Mr. Jean-Pierre, who has worked in the school system for 22 years, refuses to wear the habit of a preacher.

“I speak for my reality at Robert-Gravel,” he emphasizes.

The small establishment of 465 students, “already so indulgent,” has a history, the director recalls, citing the 2016 episode where students hung bras on lockers to protest the obligation to “wear underwear,” which as considered sexist.

However, dress codes are denounced in many places, testifies Mme Painchaud Major who as a sex education trainer visits about thirty schools a year. “When we talk about double standards in class, young people often call the dress code sexist. They are alarmed, aware that it is generally uneven. †

A long considered reflection

From her third year of primary school, Élizabeth Houle was shocked by the dress code at school


Élizabeth Houle, high school student at the Rive-Nord school

Children are hypersexualized: from the age of 7 they are told that their braces are thin, that their shorts are too short. It’s sexist and it doesn’t instill good values.

Elizabeth Houlea

The fifth-grader of the Rive-Nord school in Bois-des-Filion has made it her personal project for the International Studies Program (IEP) – a 4,000-word essay denouncing the excessive demands on the girls.

“It made me realize a lot of things that changed my stance on the subject,” said his mother, Christine Briand.

Elizabeth would prefer schools not have a dress code, but “there are those who don’t,” she admits. “In my essay I tried to make compromises: make it less strict, trust the students. †

She got 100%.

Half a century of demonstrations

“It makes me very funny to read that there was a demonstration of a garment in Père-Marquette when I took part in a demonstration for wearing jeans at the same school about 50 years ago,” Daniel Dubois wrote to us. this week.

Verification carried out, the establishment, then called “Père-Marquette polyvalent”, was the scene of a student strike lasting several days in 1971. The students complained “in particular about the shortcomings of the furniture in their school, the shortage of textbooks, the ban on smoking and wearing ‘jeans'”, reports The press of October 20. “The director of the school, Mr André Gagné, lets the… The press that wearing “jeans” was the only prohibition on clothing,” the article reads.

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