High school dress code ‘insubordination’ leads to five-day suspension

On Friday, May 13, when Alexandra Méza left her English class to sort out some details about the organization of the New Year’s Eve party, she had no idea that she wouldn’t be setting foot in the classroom within a week.

Alexandra, a graduate of Chutes High School in Rawdon, chose this day to be a ” cropped top or belly jumper, which showed a few inches of skin on her stomach and back. According to the dress code of her school, where there is no uniform, this type of clothing is prohibited. Therefore, while circulating in the school, she was challenged by a supervisor who told her that her sweater was not in the regulations.

“I offered to put on a jacket I had in my locker, but she wouldn’t,” explains Alexandra in an interview with the Task

So she called her father, who just told her to go put on her coat. But the supervisor insisted on sending Alexandra to the executive office.

“She tried to grab my arm and lowered her mask,” the student says, recalling that the mask was mandatory in indoor areas from May 13. It was at this time that the young woman began filming the scene. In the five-minute video, in which The duty access, it is possible to see the invigilator calling for backup when the student begins filming.

“I told myself I was only going to film to protect myself,” explains Alexandra. The supervisor was constantly trying to grab my arm. “In fact, in the video we see the attendant, visibly angry at the fact that he is being filmed, who goes without stopping to Alexandra. “Yes, I’m filming you because you’re moving towards me and I’m trying to back off,” you hear the student reply.

Accompanied by two employees, Alexandra was taken to the executive office, where three adults met her. The recording clearly shows a woman instructing the student to stop filming and delete the video from her phone. As Alexandra continues filming, the woman abruptly says to one of her co-workers, “Okay, okay, call the police.”

The student’s mother, Isabelle Forand, was shocked to learn of the situation. “She is a minor, we were not there to protect her and she was vulnerable. There was a balance of power,” she laments.

This “insubordination” resulted in a five-day suspension for Alexandra Méza: the rest of the day on which the intervention took place, as a result of which the student also missed a French exam, as well as the first four days of the following week. “We never had a call from the school or the principal,” the young woman said. On my student portal I saw that I had external suspension days. As for her mother, she explains that the Center de services scolaire des Samares and not the school contacted her to follow up.

“reasonable reason”

This altercation raises the following debate: Is it forbidden, even illegal, to film a person without necessarily obtaining their permission, as Alexandra did with the supervisor?

“In principle, there is nothing that prohibits anyone from capturing images,” explains Pierre Trudel, a professor at the Public Law Research Center at the University of Montreal. When there is a requirement to obtain permission, it is for distribution. †

The professor explains that in a situation like the one Alexandra experienced, two rights clash: “There is a person’s right to oppose the recording of their image, but there is also a person’s right to have a ​documenting an incident that they believe poses a threat to their rights and that the case law reflects this ambiguity by stipulating that it is illegal to film someone without their consent unless there is a valid reason.

Among these reasons that are considered reasonable is the fear of being mistreated or threatened, or even the concern to “document comments that could constitute harassment,” the professor says.

That Friday, Alexandra felt threatened, surrounded by adults who spoke harshly to her. “I didn’t know what to do, I felt like I couldn’t think and I was about to cry,” the student recalls. She was still aware of her rights and refused to remove the video when instructed to do so because “I know it didn’t happen, I asked for a video to be removed”.

Mr Trudel confirmed that “a court, after finding that a person has a video that he has no right to retain, may order suppression measures”. However, this can only happen “after an investigation allegedly examining the lawfulness of the possession of such a document”. Otherwise, it will not be possible to order the removal of a video on a phone, because it “is considered an object of one’s private life”.

And was the threat to call the police that the adults threw at Alexandra realistic? “If there is no threatening gesture, the police cannot intervene,” Pierre Trudel nuances.

other incident

Another Des Chutes high school student approached by the TaskAudrée Rioux, who is the student president of the school, also claims to have had bad experiences related to the application of the dress code. “On May 2, I was wearing high-waisted jeans and a navel-length sweater. When I arrived at school, counselors asked me to raise my arms to check if my skin was visible. She was then asked to either wear a school-provided sweater or go home.

As for Alexandra Méza, who is entering the final stretch of her secondary career and who had never been suspended before, it is a fishtail end. “We are in 2022. Can we now accept that we see an inch of skin?” asks the student.

The Samares School Service Center declined to comment on the matter. “We are unable to provide details on this student’s file due to the confidential aspects associated with it,” Communications Coordinator Maude Jutras said by email.

To be seen in video

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