TDSB will encourage, but not force, students to remove hats during national anthem

The Toronto District School Board's new dress code rules mean students will not be required to remove their hats when the national anthem is played in school. 

Spokesperson Ryan Bird said students will still be encouraged to do so, but ultimately the board has chosen not to police clothing, which includes hats. 

"It was all over the place, you didn't really have any consistency across the board," Bird said of anthem policies before the new code.

He said some teachers had strict rules around removing hats, while others were more lax. 

"That is a decision students and their parents can make," he said. "We're just not about to get into arguments with students that don't want to take that off, send them down to the office, we're done policing clothing."

The only exception is clothing with language that includes profanity, hate or pornography. 

The rules also allow students to wear crop-tops, hoods and spaghetti straps, showing shoulders, midriffs, neck lines, cleavage, legs, thighs and hips.

The board has said traditional codes have disproportionately and negatively impacted certain groups including girls, as well as racialized, gender diverse, poorer and Indigenous students. 

Bird said there was likely discussion over having an exemption around removing hats during the anthem, but added that consistency took precedent. 

"When you start making exceptions for this and exceptions for that, that's where I think we run into some difficulty, so that's why the decision was made," he said. 

World War II veteran Capt. Martin Maxwell - ahead of the D-Day anniversary event at Old City Hall in Toronto - disagreed with the decision. 

"Of course they should, respect," Maxwell said, who also speaks at schools and other events about the war. 

"If these young men would have a chance to get up, I know what they would say: 'what the hell have you done with the tomorrows we gave you?' That's why I like to speak to students." 

But Richard McFarland, whose father was a former managing editor of the Canadian Military Newspaper, said it's a sign of the times.

"People are multicultural and the changes are happening," he said. "I tend to be a traditionalist, to remove the hat." 

"But you have to still be a little bit conscious I think as a society that we are changing and perhaps that's one aspect of it."