School Board Rules Trans Oakville Teacher Can Keep Wearing Prosthetic Breasts

The board said enforcing a dress code would be a "liability."

Ontario Editor
Rows of desks in an empty classroom.

Rows of desks in an empty classroom.

A report presented to the Halton District School Board (HDSB) said that imposing a dress code on staff would be a "liability" after photos of an Oakville teacher wearing large prosthetic breasts went viral this fall.

This means the teacher will be able to continue dressing that way in class.

Staff were asked to conduct a review of the situation in September after the photos, reportedly taken during class at Oakville Trafalgar High School, gained national and international media attention.

"[T]he implementation of a formal staff dress code or grooming standards would likely expose the Board to considerable liability," read the report from Sari Taha, the Superintendent of Human Resources and Curtis Ennis, the Director of Education for HDSB. "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."

Issues of dress code and professional standards were raised when the photos were first posted online.

Ontario's Education Minister Stephen Lecce even weighed in.

"There must be the highest standards of professionalism in front of our kids," Lecce said, as he called for the Ontario College of Teachers to review its professional conduct provisions.

But the report to the school board raised a number of potential red flags.

"[A]n employer will have to be prepared to establish that any sex-linked differences within its dress code are bona fide occupational requirements, otherwise they will more than likely be found to be discriminatory," Taha and Ennis wrote. "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."

This story has ignited a debate about what is appropriate attire for a teacher to be wearing in front of students but has also raised the issue of trans rights.

"[I]t is important to recognize the impact that dress code policies can have on members of the transgender community," the report said. "Most notably, it is important for employers to make allowances to ensure that these employees are able to express themselves in accordance with their lived gender."

Narcity reached out to Minister Lecce for comment on this report but did not receive a response before publication.

This article's cover image was used for illustrative purposes only.

Stuart McGinn
Ontario Editor
Stuart McGinn is Narcity’s Ontario Editor and focuses mainly on covering major provincial and local news stories across the province. Stuart is from Ottawa and is now based in Toronto.
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