Halton’s school board has asked its director of education to develop a “professionalism policy,” which includes a dress code, after images of a teacher wearing large prosthetic breasts in a classroom circulated online in September.
The decision was made unanimously at a Jan. 3 special board meeting, four months after photos of an employee, from Oakville Trafalgar High School, were shared widely on social media.
In the photos, the individual is seen wearing large prosthetic breasts, which are covered by clothing, while standing with students. No context for the photos has been provided by the Halton District School Board (HDSB), with officials previously saying it was a “personnel matter.”
The request for a professionalism policy comes after a November report suggested the implementation of a formal dress code for staff would present a “considerable liability.”
“Even if a dress code is implemented for non-discriminatory reasons, it would likely be found to be discriminatory where it adversely affects an employee or group of employees on the basis of their Code-protected grounds,” Superintendent Sari Taha and Director of Education. Curtis Ennis wrote in the report.
“Finally, and most importantly, we note that if the employer desires to foster a culture of professionalism, respect, equity and inclusion, a truly reasonable and non-discriminatory dress code or grooming standards would most likely fail to yield the intended results.”
Despite this recommendation, the board is asking that a policy outlining expectations, including a “requirement to maintain appropriate professional standards of dress and decorum in the classroom,” be presented in March 2023. An interim report is expected next month.
In a statement to CTV News Toronto, Ennis said Tuesday the HDSB’s “commitment to human rights remains rooted in our core values.” The new policy, he added, will be informed by employment law firms “with human rights and equity advisors.”
“This commitment and approach will continue to be applied as the HDSB looks to fulfill this motion.”
The photos of the teacher have been widely criticized over the last few months. Ontario Education Minister Stephen Lecce even asked the Ontario College of Teachers to review professional conduct provisions to ensure “the highest stands of professionalism in front of our kids.”
CTV News Toronto has reached out to the HDSB for comment.