“As the sun comes out and the temperature begins to warm up, the clothes seem to come off.”
So began an email received by parents of Spencer Middle School students from Principal Darren Russell on Monday, which went on to outline the school’s dress code.
“Clothes and appearance must not create a distractive or disruptive situation in the classroom…”
While nothing in the dress code specifies things like tank tops, short skirts or leggings, that’s how many parents are interpreting the comments, given the “clothes seem to come off” comment.
Within two hours of the email being posted on the private Facebook group Westshore Mums, there were more than 600 comments, mostly saying the code unfairly targets girls.
Thea Sawin has a elementary school aged daughter in School District 62. She’s disappointed in the messaging that she perceives as directed at girls.
“The email (based on what I saw in the screenshot) appeared to emphasize that young girls can be a distraction to young boys,” she told the Gazette.
“This teaches young girls that we are responsible for the actions and behaviours of young boys and that is not O.K. It also teaches young boys that they are not to be held responsible for their behaviours.”
Sawin, also a Spencer alumni, was told to cover up by a teacher in Grade 7 or 8. Worse, she remembers a friend being sent to the office to get a cover-up shirt. It was designed by the leadership class with a picture of Mr. Dressup saying, ‘Mr. Dressup says dress-up, not down!’ She was mortified, Sawin recalled.
This was almost 20 years ago, and the dress code has already changed markedly to remove specific references to things such as tank tops, but parents are reacting strongly to the email, reading between the lines.
Despite the online uproar, SD62 communications director, Lindsay Vogan said its not reflected at the school. There haven’t been any dress code related incidents and the principal has only received two emails complaining about the note, Vogan said.
Further, it turns out Russell mistakenly copy and pasted an outdated dress code policy in his email. He sent an updated note to parents with the current policy, simply stating that “Students are expected to wear clothing that is appropriate for an educational environment.”
So while the maelstrom doesn’t have roots in school policy, it demonstrates the mood of parents who are determined their children will not be subjected to rules of the past.