Spaghetti straps, as illustrated in this image, are not allowed to be worn in most Chilliwack schools, even some elementary schools. A new dress code for the district aims to “stop policing girls’ bodies.” (Ryan Moreno/ Unsplash)

Chilliwack schools adopt dress code policy meant to ‘stop policing girls’ bodies’

Students are still expected to dress appropriately for school, but should not be dealt with in a shameful way

Parents, students and teachers in Chilliwack now have some district-wide clothing guidelines, including what to do if a student isn’t conforming to them.

But the path to adopting Student Dress Guidelines Policy 534 was a bumpy one full of amendments, discussions at a committee level, and even a community online forum process. There have been conversations about morals, bra straps and boys’ being distracted by girls’ clothing — or lack thereof. But brand-new the policy received final approval on Tuesday night, with Trustees Barry Neufeld and Heather Maahs eventually voting against it.

The policy states that dress codes should be created in consultation with parents, staff and students. While that wording existed in some schools’ dress codes previously, many parents have said they have been told parents do not have a say in creating dress codes. Dress codes must also now be “constructive rather than punitive so that correction or discipline is not required,” and “focus on safety rather than modesty.”

Students are still expected to dress appropriately for school, however the policy states “if a student comes to school dressed in clothing that is not appropriate for the day’s activities, this should be dealt with in a way that does not cause shame or loss of learning time.”

As for who is responsible for clothing decisions?

“Parents have a responsibility to send their children to school in clothes that allow them to learn and/or play,” the policy states. “Students have a responsibility to dress in clothing that meets health and safety standards for all intended activities.”

The move came after a motion was made by Trustee Willow Reichelt in March to “end the practice of policing girls’ bodies” in schools. She said she had been hearing stories of students being “dress coded” for clothing infractions, sometimes as innocuous as a bit of bra strap showing on a shoulder. At that meeting, a middle school student modeled a modest outfit covering all but two inches of her bra straps that she was pulled into the office for.

But Reichelt’s proposed policy at the time was considered too prescriptive by some trustees, and even saying Reichelt was using her own “worldview” to push an agenda. Maahs called some of her fellow trustees “ideologues” on social media following the meeting.

READ MORE: Chilliwack school board to debate district wide dress codes

The board decided to send the policy to their Education Policy Advisory Committee (EPAC), which is chaired by Trustee David Swankey. The resulting policy came back to the board on Tuesday to a lukewarm reception. It also kicked off a fresh debate about the role of the EPAC.

Reichelt was the most vocal about her disappointment in the policy they were faced with, saying she “more than a little dismayed.”

“I brought forward the idea of creating a district-wide dress code policy with the express purpose of ending the discriminatory practice of policing girls’ bodies. This is not a trivial issue: Dress coding causes lasting damage for girls, even long after their school years are over,” she said, reading a letter from a graduate of a Chilliwack school who is still bothered by her treatment 10 years ago.

She said the policy EPAC sent back did not have the same intent of the policy that was initially written. She said the fact that trustees who fiercely opposed her original policy were supportive of what EPAC sent back was proof it was drastically different.

“I want the shaming of girls in our district to end, along with the misogynistic thinking that puts more value on a girl in a turtleneck than a girl in a tube top,” she said from a written statement. “As such, I put forward a policy that would apply across the district, emphasized that respect was owed to everyone regardless of their clothing choices, and placed modesty/appropriateness decisions in the hands of families. That’s the policy that was passed on to EPAC by the board for review and feedback.”

She also cited support for her original intent from an online forum on ThoughtExchange, and said those voices should be respected.

“I want EPAC to have a strong voice when it comes to policy development,” she said. “However, I cannot support the policy that EPAC has sent back to us.”

She proposed an amendment, which included large chunks of additional text throughout EPAC’s suggested policy. Her amendment won support, and the idea of sending the policy back to EPAC failed.


@CHWKcommunity
jpeters@theprogress.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Boy, 12, in critical condition after being hit by suspected drunk driver

One of two Friday hit-and-runs the driver is believed to be part of, Langley police say

Burnouts stressing out Langley’s Cruise-In board

A board member said the charity car show can’t allow burnouts for safety reasons

VIDEO: Nearly $12,000 raised at Terry Fox run in Langley City

Despite the rain there were over 150 participants at this year’s race

VIDEO: TWU Spartans defeat Bisons

Third straight win of the season for Langley-based university soccer team

VIDEO: Liberals make child care pledge, Greens unveil platform on Day 6 of campaign

Green party leader Elizabeth May unveils her party’s platform in Toronto

National weather forecasters predict average fall, cold winter

The Weather Network says precipitation will about average in most parts of Canada

Two dead, two in critical condition in highway crash near Campbell River

Highway 19 reopened Sunday night after it was closed in both directions

VIDEO: Vancouver Island mayor details emergency response after fatal bus crash

Sharie Minions says she is ‘appalled’ by condition of road where bus crashed

Federal party leaders address gun violence after weekend shooting near Toronto

One teen was killed and five people injured in the shooting

Conservatives promise tax cut that they say will address Liberal increases

Scheer says the cut would apply to the lowest income bracket

B.C. VIEWS: Cutting wood waste produces some bleeding

Value-added industry slowly grows as big sawmills close

Pedestrian struck and killed by vehicle in Surrey

Investigators were asking anyone who witnessed the incident to come forward

Most Read