Dress codes for Mission students are getting a rework, following a widely publicized incident of a girl being sent home from a Kamloops school for an “inappropriate” outfit.
Following a school board meeting on March 9, trustees decided a new district-wide policy will be formed after noting inconsistencies and dated language across the different schools.
“The dress code has been on the radar for a few years now,” said Superintendent Angus Wilson. “The Kamloops incident really just highlighted … (that) this needs to be dealt with right now.”
Wilson and district staff have been tasked with drafting a broad new code, one that allows students to express individuality, is gender neutral, while also ensuring the clothing is appropriate for a learning institution.
As far as what is deemed appropriate, Wilson said clothing that is offensive, unsafe, promotes alcohol, tobacco, drugs, sex, inappropriate language, or racism will remain restricted.
The codes that specifically target one gender will be reworked, Wilson said.
“Some of these old (codes) are like: ‘The strap must be at least two fingers wide.’ We’re not going there,” he said. “There are those traditional issues that are sexist in nature, where it targets (girls) and shames them.
“That’s not to say you get to wear a bikini to school … If something is inappropriate for one gender, it’s inappropriate to the other gender.”
Wilson said principals in the district will welcome a consistent district-wide policy, as policing dress codes is a challenging (although infrequent) issue for administrators.
He said he will present a draft to principals for feedback and approval before bringing it back to the school board.
Other subjective terminology in the old codes has been deemed problematic, such as “clothing that is distracting to others.”
The Kamloops student’s outfit was a dress over a turtleneck, and a student and teacher complained it was distracting. The girl was sent home after she refused to wear a sweater.
“One person’s common-sense solution isn’t someone else’s, and the incident in Kamloops kind of highlights that,” Wilson said.
“But why should she have to (cover up)? She didn’t have anything offensive on. So that’s the tricky bit.”