Two South Surrey students were made to cover up their outfits with jerseys this week – and were called with their female peers into a “discussion” about what’s OK to wear – after staff deemed their clothing inappropriate for an elementary school.
School district spokesman Doug Strachan confirmed the step was taken Tuesday at South Meridian Elementary, and involved students in Grade 6 or 7. He did not have details on the offending outfits, and did not know which event occurred first, the discussion or the demand to don jerseys.
Parents were not given advance notice of the discussion, and Grade 6 and 7 boys were not included, Strachan confirmed.
The jersey measure, he noted – described by one parent as a “scarlet letter” – was “a one-off, a temporary cover-up for clothing that was considered inappropriate.”
“It’s not an institutionalized approach,” Strachan said.
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Peace Arch News learned Wednesday that some parents at the 16244 13 Ave. school were upset by the school’s steps.
“The issue is singling out the girls,” Derek Thornton told PAN by email.
“Also, the dress code, purely in my opinion, is quite vague. I’m sure it is left that way intentionally so that it is simply left to the discretion of the day. However, a ‘scarlet letter’ of a jersey is completely inappropriate and definitely crosses a line.”
Thornton said many parents voiced concerns and frustrations through comments on a private Facebook page. A screenshot of part of that online conversation – with commenters’ names obscured by Thornton for privacy reasons – shows comments including some questioning why the boys weren’t spoken to at the same time.
One describes the scenario that played out as “ridiculous.”
Another commented that “it irked me.”
“Just the girls,” commented another. “I get some clothes are not appropriate in the school… but a lecture about it… they also now single out the offender so she wears a jersey at school for first offence and 2nd gets sent home… this could have been handled so differently.”
Strachan said the discussion with the Grade 6 and 7 girls was simply about “appropriate dress,” and that the Grade 6 and 7 boys were not spoken to as a similar issue or trend has not been identified amongst them.
He said, generally, the genders are spoken to separately, “when it might allow the students to feel more comfortable to speak out.”
Contrary to reports, Strachan said the girls “were not told” in Tuesday’s discussion that their clothing was distracting the boys.
He said the school will be involving parents in discussions regarding dress-code guidelines, approaches and options.
“The school will be continuing the dialogue from this week about the dress code and related expectations and processes with parents,” he said.
The issue was also expected to be on the agenda of this evening’s (Nov. 29) parent advisory committee, after PAN press time.