Ottawa police’s ‘aggressive’ response to high school dress code protest draws criticism


Ottawa police are under fire for their response to a student protest outside a Catholic high school over a dress code ‘blitz’, particularly over how they reacted to the ‘Freedom Convoy’ blockade more early this year.

Students staged a large protest outside the Lycée Catholique Béatrice-Desloges in Orleans during lunch break on Friday, a day after students said teachers called several female students out of class for alleged school dress code violations. ‘school.

Protesters said Thursday’s “blitz” explicitly targeted women, who were taken to the manager’s office to have their shorts and skirts measured by – and in front of – male and female staff members.

“They made us bend over and touch our toes to prove that our underwear wasn’t showing, and touched our inner thighs to measure us, which is sexual assault, because we didn’t consent,” said Cloé Dumoulin, a student at the school.

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Dumoulin and another student, Cheyenne Lehouillier, said up to 60 students were ordered to change clothes or go home and come back in different attire. None of the targeted students were male, they said, who were also wearing shorts and sleeveless shirts due to the 30-degree weather.

The couple were among more than 100 students who staged a protest outside the school on Friday against the treatment of students by staff. Many wore shorts in protest.

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Police said in a statement they responded to what they called a “disruption” at the school around 11.30am in order to help staff. They said one person was arrested “for causing a disturbance and trespassing” but was later released without charge, adding that the person was not a student of the school.

However, videos posted to social media showed police getting their hands on more than one person as they responded to a group of students demonstrating across the street in solidarity, according to Dumoulin and Lehouillier.

These students were seen in the videos shouting loudly at the police, including one person who was seen taken by officers into a squad car where he was pushed against the side of the vehicle, then handcuffed and placed inside of the police car.

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“He didn’t even touch (the officer),” Dumoulin said. “(The officers) were so aggressive, telling everyone that if they crossed the street they would be fined. It was way over the line.

The French Catholic school board, Conseil des écoles catholiques du Centre-Est, said it could not verify who called the police.

A spokesperson confirmed that none of the students who had altercations with the police were from Béatrice-Desloges.

The police response quickly sparked outcry from social media users, as well as concern from city officials.

City Council Catherine Kitts, whose neighborhood includes Béatrice-Desloges, questioned how police treated students and young people participating in the protest in light of how police responded to the convoy that blocked the city ​​streets for three weeks in January and February.

“After everything our city has been through recently and to see a pretty hands-off approach to these protests and then to see this happen, I absolutely think there should have been more de-escalation,” she said. told Global News.

“I think until there was a threat to the safety of other students, it was not dealt with appropriately.”

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City councilors and residents chastised police during ‘Freedom Convoy’ protests for not doing enough to drown out the noise, including incessant honking that lasted all night and disturbed downtown residents .

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Reports also emerged from local residents shortly after the convoy arrived on Jan. 28 describing encounters with participants that they believed constituted abuse, harassment, intimidation and hateful behavior.

It took police an extra week after the federal government invoked the never-before-used Emergency Act until the blockade was finally lifted in late February.

When pressed by Global News to find out what necessitated their response to Friday’s student protest, Ottawa police sent over the definition of a “disturbance” as set out in the Criminal Code.

The Code defines a disturbance in part as “fighting, yelling, yelling, swearing, singing, or using insulting or obscene language” – a definition Kitts agrees applies as much to the convoy protests as it does to the student demonstration. .

“If they were there (Friday) to control the crowd, then I don’t understand why the hands were placed on an individual,” Kitts said.

Kitts said she has spoken with Acting Chief Steve Bell and plans to raise the matter further with police and the school board.

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The Council of Catholic Schools of Centre-Est said in a statement in French that it “takes very seriously” the allegations against teachers who enforce the flash dress code, and sent two officials to the school to meet with students. and staff.

The spokesperson said the board and school will “continue to dialogue” about the dress code to “ensure that a positive, healthy and safe learning environment is provided for all students”.

Dumoulin and Lehouillier said while Superintendent of Education Jason Dupuis apologized to students for the way the blitz was conducted, school staff have yet to issue an apology.

Students say that until an apology is issued and significant changes to the dress code and its enforcement are announced, they and other schools are planning a strike next Tuesday.

“We just want to know that our voices have been heard and that they’re going to do something about it,” Lehouillier said. “Because it wasn’t OK.”

– with files by Amanda Connolly of Global News

© 2022 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.


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