NorKam secondary student Karis Wilson in the outfit that got her sent home from school on Feb. 23, 2021. (Kamloops This Week photo)

NorKam secondary student Karis Wilson in the outfit that got her sent home from school on Feb. 23, 2021. (Kamloops This Week photo)

School district dress code changed after B.C. teen sent home for turtleneck, lace-edged dress

Karis Wilson said she was sent home because a teacher told her that her outfit had made her uncomfortable

  • Jul. 7, 2021 11:00 a.m.

School District 73 has adopted a new district-wide dress code, removing language that allowed staff to single out students for clothing they considered distracting to the learning environment.

The new dress code will come into effect for the 2021-2022 school year and will also be reviewed every three years in order to keep it current.

Societys norms and values evolve and the dress code we had 10 years ago is not suitable for today, said district superintendent Terry Sullivan at Monday nights (July 5) board meeting.

The process in revising the dress began in December 2020, but the issue had a fire lit under it in late February of this year, when NorKam secondary student Karis Wilson said she was sent home for wearing a knee-length black dress over top of a turtleneck.

Wilson said she was sent home because a teacher told her that her outfit had made her uncomfortable.

READ MORE: B.C. teen in turtleneck, lace-edged dress sent home from school for ‘inappropriate’ outfit

Prior to the revisions, the dress code allowed staff to take issue with students thought to be wearing clothing that was worn in a way that detracts from the teaching/learning process.

SD73 convened nine groups, including parent and student advisory councils, teachers, union employees, principals and vice-principals, representatives from the Kamloops Sexual Assault Counselling Centre, a student SOGI representative and a student diversity representative.

The groups met three times from April to June and further revised a draft policy put forward by the district. It was overseen by assistant superintendent Bill Hamblett.

Theres a number of things that we dont want students to wear and those have been identified, Hamblett said.

Similar to the previous policy, students cannot wear clothing, insignias, symbols or adornments that denigrate or promote hatred of a person or persons, including, but not limited to, clothing that denigrates or promotes hate based on race, colour, ancestry, place of origin, religion, marital status, family status, physical or mental disability, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity and/or expression, or age, or contains profanity, pornography or obscene images.

Hamblett said the updated list comes from the B.C. Human Rights Code.

The dress code also affirms the wearing of face coverings for religious purposes or to adhere to health and safety requirements, such as masks.

Hamblett said principals and vice-principals will soon be trained on the new administrative procedure before sharing the details with parents and staff.

SD73 STUDENT DRESS CODE

The district recognizes that a student’s choice of dress can form an important part of self-identity and that students should be free to dress in a manner of their choosing, subject to the terms of this administrative procedure.

Procedures:

1. All principals will publish the dress code in a manner that will ensure parents and students are aware of its contents, by September 30th each year.

2. All principals will review the procedures of this dress code with all staff prior to September 30th annually.

3. This administrative procedure will be reviewed at the District level every three years to ensure it remains current.

4. Students must not wear clothing which undermines the District’s commitment to a safe and inclusive learning environment. This includes:

4.1. Clothing that promotes the use of tobacco, illegal drugs or alcohol;

4.2. Clothing that advocates illegal activity;

4.3. The wearing of clothing, insignias, symbols or adornments that denigrate or promote hatred of a person or persons, including, but not limited to, clothing that denigrates or promotes hate based

on race, colour, ancestry, place of origin, religion, marital status, family status, physical or mental disability, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity and/or expression, or age;

4.4. Clothing which contains profanity, pornography or obscene images.

5. Student clothing must conform to health or safety requirements, including requirements arising from participation in specialized programs and events.

6. Other than for religious purposes, health and safety requirements, or where required to accommodate a disability, students must not wear clothing which obscures their face.

7. Staff shall respond to Student Dress Code violations in a manner that:

7.1. Is discreet, respectful and clearly references the specifics of the dress code concern;

7.2. Does not require the student to wear clothing provided by the school and instead requires the student to wear additional clothing of their own to obscure the violating dress choice;

7.3. Is consultative with the school administration prior to addressing a dress code concern with a student.

7.4. Includes school administration contacting parents and or guardians of any student that has violated this Administrative Procedure.

8. The District will consider the approval of a school uniform for a specific school when the following criteria have been met:

8.1. The Superintendent receives a letter from the principal that outlines the consultation process involving the school parents’ advisory council (PAC) and leading to the recommendation of a

school uniform, as well as a description of the proposed school uniform;

8.2. Evidence that at least eighty percent (80%), with one (1) vote per family, of the school community voted by secret ballot to approve a school uniform;

8.3. Evidence of a plan to provide school uniforms to any student who is disadvantaged;

8.4. Provisions for exceptions that may be necessary for religious reasons; and,

8.5. Provisions for a process for individual families to opt out of a school uniform requirement


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