Ottawa's largest school board has unveiled a new permissive dress code for all elementary and secondary schools, saying it will allow students to "show your style" through clothing, head wear, hair style and accessories. 

The Ottawa Carleton District School Board approved updates to the Safe Schools Policies this spring, which includes an updated dress code and School District Code of Conduct.  Students will be allowed to wear tank tops, spaghetti straps, halter tops, ripped jeans and hats.

"All students have the right to express themselves in school through their choice of clothing, hair styles, jewelry, and accessories," says the board on its website.

"All students have the right to express themselves through their dress without fear of body shaming, bias, discrimination."

The OCDSB dress code says a student dress must:

  • Cover the groin, buttocks and nipples with material that is not see-through or transparent
  • Includes more than underwear as the only layer of clothing
  • Include footwear with consideration for health and safety
  • Ensure that the student's face is not fully obscured
  • Clothing may not include wording or graphics that reasonably could be construed as promoting or symbolizing hate or discrimination, drugs, alcohol, tobacco, Cannabis, illegal activity, profanity, nudity, pornography; or that incites violence or harassment.

The OCDSB dress code allows:

Tops: shirt, t-shirt, sweater, vest, midriff-baring shirt, tank top, spaghetti straps, halter tops, tube top, backless top

Bottoms: pants, jeans (including ripped), sweatpants, shorts, skirts, dresses, leggings, fitted pants, yoga pants, ripped jeans

Headwear: hats, du-rags, bandanas, hoodies, creed-based headwear

The Ottawa Carleton District School Board says it's important to have one dress code for all schools within the board.

"Everybody is in the same place now, so one school couldn't say, 'I think that's not acceptable', and another school say, "that is,'" said Colin Anderson, OCDSB system principal of safe schools.

The board says enforcement will involve talking to students about possible violations, and asking them to change. Students could face possible suspension if they continuously disobey the rules.

"We are going to be requiring another level where the senior staff that supervises the principal has to sign off on that, and help the principal explore all the ways they could address the problem without going to suspension," Anderson said.

The board launched public consultations with staff, students and parents back in 2019. Anderson says the dress code is fair to students, and gives them the opportunity to make choices within the restrictions.

"Designed in a way where we are not asking people to make judgements, there is clarity around where those lines are."

The Ottawa Carleton District School Board's policy comes after a French Catholic school in Ottawa's east end made headlines for a dress code-blitz.

Students at Beatrice-Desloges Catholic High School held a protest on May 13 after teachers and staff conducted a dress code "blitz" they said left them feeling degraded and humiliated.

The Director of Education for the board apologized to parents and students for the blitz, adding the way the dress code was enforced was unacceptable.

An investigation by the Conseil des écoles catholiques du Centre-Est found some students, mostly girls, were asked to leave the classroom to check to see if clothing complied with the dress code.