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Thunder Bay RC School Board apologizes for letter to parents

School wanted Grade 6 girls to wear a t-shirt for swimming at the Complex

THUNDER BAY -- The separate school board in Thunder Bay has revised and redistributed a memo that was sent to parents of Grade 6 students at St. Martin School.

It has also offered an apology to female students "for inadvertently causing any discomfort."

At issue was a school letter dated Sept. 28 advising parents of a planned outing at the Canada Games Complex on Oct.16.

The memo asked "that female students wear one-piece bathing suits if possible. A long tank top or t-shirt would be an option if students do not have a one-piece swimsuit. We thank you for your anticipated co-operation."

That request raised the ire of some parents including Sarah Henderson, whose 11-year-old daughter attends St. Martin.

"I had to read the letter twice. In 2017, this shouldn't ever come about...I was blown away," Henderson said.

She called the request ridiculous, saying it plays "into that whole rape culture, body-shaming, girls have to hide their body. And it reflects badly on what they're saying about boys as well, being like 'Oh, they can't control themselves.' That's such a backwards way of thinking."

Henderson said that after she raised her concerns with the school principal on Thursday, the principal promised to send out a revised note.

The Thunder Bay Catholic District School Board followed up with a statement Thursday afternoon apologizing for the language and phrasing in the original memo, saying it was poorly worded.

"Our students have an opportunity to reach their full potential, in an inclusive atmosphere characterized by respect and dignity," the statement said.

It also confirmed that the note to parents had been retracted, edited and redistributed to students.

Henderson said she is happy with the outcome, but still had concerns about the original note.

She said she was given to understand that because the activities at the Complex will include First Aid and CPR instruction, "they were worried that their bathing suit tops would come off or something...But I'm pretty sure they're not wearing string bikinis. They're 11-year-old children and they're gonna have bathing suits that are age-appropriate."

In the future, she said, she hopes officials will be "more understanding and aware of certain things because we've come so far. We just don't wanna go backwards."