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‘Extremely frustrating’: OT parent group unhappy with school board's inaction on promised professionalism policy


Since September, parents at Oakville Trafalgar high school have been looking for the Halton school board to address the controversial attire of a transgender shop teacher wearing gigantic prosthetic breasts with protruding nipples to class.

Last month, a group representing those parents expressed optimism that resolution was near when trustees ordered that a “professionalism policy” be developed to cover appropriate standards of dress and decorum for staff.

And on Wednesday night, an overflow crowd of about 100 parents and community members filled the school board’s offices, eager to hear an “interim report” on that policy.

But after waiting about three hours, members of the audience got to hear school board director Curtis Ennis say almost nothing.

In a brief, vague and somewhat unclear oral report, Ennis basically said staff is working on a draft policy and will report back on March 1.

But that policy will then be circulated to school councils and other stakeholders to gather feedback before it can eventually be turned into an administrative policy able to be implemented.

He couldn’t be pinned down on when that might actually happen. 

The parent group Students First Ontario labelled the report a fail.

“It’s extremely frustrating,” said Celina Close, the group’s spokesperson and the mother of an OT student.

“Given the director’s lack of report, we realize we are not making any progress, and our issues are not going away.”

“From here on in, we need someone outside of the board to step in to correct this,” she said.

Close said parents would reach out to Minister of Education Stephen Lecce for help.

Lecce has been publicly critical of the Halton board’s unwillingness to implement a dress code for teachers.

Last fall, school board officials recommended against a system-wide dress code, pointing to a potential impact on transgender staff and suggesting it could spark human rights complaints.

But parents say teachers should simply be required to abide by the same dress code imposed on students, which prohibits clothing that displays vulgarity or exposes or makes visible genitals or nipples.

Delegation by transgender woman censored

It is possible to create a dress code that includes transgender individuals, trustees heard from Julia Malott on Wednesday night.

“So long as the dress code does not explicitly require an individual to present in alignment with their birth sex there should arise no gender expression issue out of standards of professionalism,” said Malott, who identified herself as a transgender woman. 

Oakville News
Oakville News

She said that silicon breast forms “designed to emulate natural breast dimensions” are often used by transitioning women.

“I myself used a pair of 34B forms for a six-month period in the early stages of my transition as I awaited growth from hormones,” she said.

An original version of her speech added, “There are also breast forms that exaggerate natural proportions and are used by the drag industry and sex workers. The distinction between these very different products is quite clear, and a well-written professionalism policy should have no difficulty distinguishing between the two.”

But the school board demanded a preview of her speech and insisted she remove those two sentences before giving her permission to address trustees.

While abiding by the board’s conditions, Malott noted, “This is about as far from an open discourse as it can get.”

Filtering delegations based on what the administration wants to hear is “antithetical to everything democracy stands for and leaves none of us better off,” she added.

Trustees also heard from lawyer and OT parent Rishi Bandu, who said the board’s efforts to block feedback from the OT parent council have been improper.

“You cannot prevent parents from providing feedback or issuing recommendations with respect to their own children,” he said.

While the board does not need to accept the advice of parent councils, it should influence decision-makers, Bandu added.

“All of your decisions should be guided by a concern for our children. If the union doesn’t like it, they can grieve. An arbitrator decides the matter. If you lose, we will support you. At least you are standing up for our children.”

Following the meeting, board chair Margo Shuttleworth said in an email that trustees understand the frustration of the OT community.

“The message we hope the community understands is that trustees' role lies in governance and we are limited in what we as trustees can do,” she wrote.

“In our capacity, we have asked the director to provide a professionalism report at our March 1 meeting. Our hope is that that there is consultation with all stakeholders so that everyone can have a voice.”