NEWS

Lauren Wiggins, Moncton student, won't stop fight against 'unjust' dress code

05/14/2015 08:56 EDT | Updated 05/14/2016 05:59 EDT
Grade 12 student Lauren Wiggins isn't backing down in her dispute against a Moncton, N.B., high school over an "unjust" dress code that's at the centre of an incident that has sparked a social media backlash.

In fact, Wiggins, who is set to graduate from Harrison Trimble High School this spring, says she hasn't ruled out wearing her controversial dress again before the end of the year.

Wiggins says she wasn't out to start a fight when she wore the full-length halter dress to school on Monday. She was told the dress was considered "inappropriate" and a "sexual distraction" to fellow students, and was given a detention.

Wiggins, who turns 18 on Friday, also earned a one-day suspension for writing a letter of complaint to vice-principal Shane Sturgeon, which she posted on Facebook.

Wiggins sayes the dress only exposed her shoulders and upper back.

"Personally, I thought that was absolutely ridiculous," she said about the school's comment that the dress was causing a disturbance in class and causing the male students to lose their "focus."

Superintendent defends dress code

Gregg Ingersoll, the superintendent of the Anglophone East School District, said the dress code policy at the school Wiggins attends isn't meant to be sexist, and that it's meant to make learning easier.

"Whether it's dress code, whether it's dress code student behaviour, coming to school late, those are all distractions to the teacher when it comes to learning," he said.

"So I think in the school context, I think what the teachers want to do is eliminate any distractions, whatever they are."

The school's dress code prohibits clothing that:

- Is excessively revealing for a school environment.

- Exposes shoulders and/or backs, and/or midriffs (spaghetti straps, tube tops, halter tops).

Another dress code fight

This isn't the first time students in New Brunswick have clashed with school administrations over dress codes.

Last November, students at Fredericton High School protested, saying its dress code unfairly targets young women and promotes the idea that sexual assault should be blamed on the woman.  

Sorcha Beirne, co-ordinator of Fredericton Youth Feminists, was a student leader during the Fredericton protests, and has been following Wiggins's story.

"I wasn't shocked that this sort of thing was happening at other schools, but I was excited that somebody else was standing up for it and advocating for the same sort of things that we were advocating for," Beirne says.

The protests in Fredericton brought a change to the sexual assault policy, something Beirne is relieved to see.

"I think more and more people are kind of recognizing the connection between dress codes and the sexualization of young women," she says.

"I think more and more people are getting on board with the idea that that's outdated and and that's inappropriate to be spread around schools."

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