Are school dress codes discriminatory against girls?
That’s what the Chilliwack School Board will discuss at Tuesday’s meeting, where Trustee Willow Reichelt will put forward a motion to create a unified dress code for the entire district.
She announced the motion last week, and the issue has had plenty of discussion already among parents online. But whether or not the motion will result in changes won’t be clear until Tuesday evening.
“I am bringing forward a motion to adopt a district-wide dress code policy that does not discriminate on the basis of gender, body type, culture or socioeconomic status,” she wrote on her public trustee Facebook page. “I believe that each family determines their values regarding modesty, and our job as a school district is to teach kids to respect everyone regardless of what they happen to be wearing.”
Her motion includes a suggestion to get feedback from partner groups through the Education Policy Advisory Committee. She paired the announcement of her intended motion with photos from her own childhood in the 1980s, wearing shorts and tops that were commonly worn in that decade by school-aged children.
“Did you know that the two outfits I am wearing in the pictures below would break the current dress codes of many of our elementary schools?” she wrote. “In fact, every girl on the monkey bars is wearing shorts that are ‘too short’ by today’s standards. Spaghetti straps are banned, and kids as young as six have been asked to cover up. I think we can do better.”
The change she will propose at the meeting reads that “the Board is committed to providing students with learning environments that are safe and inclusive.”
It adds: “Students must show respect for everyone, and this does not change based on how someone is dressed. The Board believes that judgments on the appropriateness of student attire are best made by students and their families, because clothing choices reflect individual identity, cultural norms, and socio-economic factors and are intensely personal. Students may attend school and school-related functions in clothing of their choice, provided that it meets the following conditions:
Conforms with the health and safety requirements for the intended activity. Does not promote drugs or alcohol. Does not display profanity. Does not display discriminatory language or images.”
The policy would not apply to local schools with uniforms in places, such as Rosedale Traditional School.
Currently, schools have their own codes. For example, Chilliwack secondary’s code includes this wording: “Some examples of clothing that may not be acceptable are, bare midriffs, spaghetti straps and low necklines. In addition, shirts should be worn, and underwear should be covered.”
The codes vary but usually the consequences of breaking them include being sent home, told to change, or being given school clothing to wear.
GW Graham’s code states: “At GW Graham we are in the business of learning. As such, we expect that students dress accordingly. Students who choose to wear clothing that is too revealing or inappropriate for this environment will be asked to change. Students who have nothing else to change into will be provided with GW wear to put on. Refusal to comply may result in the student being sent home for the day.”
The codes extend to some elementary schools, too. Promontory elementary’s code of conduct states in part: “Cover-up clothing – 2 finger shoulder width on sleeveless tops, midriffs covered, shorts/skirts should be a moderate length.”
And yes, that means no spaghetti strap summer dresses. At least, not without something to cover it up.
For an update to this story, with results of the Reichelt’s motion, watch www.theprogress.com.