A reader wondered: “Why does The Globe persist in using the sexist … and outdated term ‘schoolgirls’ in reference to the victims of Paul Bernardo? Public editor Sylvia Stead writes it may be time to find a better description. 

By Sylvia Stead, public editor of The Globe and Mail

We all know that our language changes constantly. Words come in and out of fashion.

In August, Oxford University Press added selfie, unlike and digital detox among others.

Other words become over-used according to this site on dictionary.com — words like fiscal cliff, epic, to curate etc.

Then, there are words which made sense years ago but don’t sound right today to some readers.


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One of those words is “schoolgirls.” A reader wrote to me this week after seeing stories in The Globe and Mail about the tours of the Kingston Penitentiary, the jail that once held notorious killer Paul Bernardo. The story described him as “schoolgirl killer.”

The reader wondered: “Why does The Globe persist in using the sexist … and outdated term ‘schoolgirls’ in reference to the victims of Paul Bernardo? What is wrong with ‘high school students,’ (or) ‘teenagers,’ or ‘young women’?”

To continue reading this column, please go to theglobeandmail.com where it was originally published.

Tamara Baluja is an award-winning journalist with CBC Vancouver and the 2018 Michener-Deacon fellow for journalism education. She was the associate editor for J-Source from 2013-2014.