The mother of a South Surrey student who was made to wear a jersey over an outfit deemed “inappropriate” this week says her daughter wore the off-the-shoulder top to school about a dozen times this year before it became an issue.
And, she noted, it was purchased by her daughter’s grandmother.
“She was pulled into the office, her and one of her friends, (and) told that her shoulders hanging out was too inappropriate for school,” Jackie Welch told Peace Arch News Friday, of her daughter Madison’s experience three days ago.
“If her grandmother thought it was cute, how can it be inappropriate?”
School officials, Welch said, “never, ever contacted me about it.”
PAN reported this week that two students at South Meridian Elementary were made to wear jerseys over their clothes Tuesday, and that female Grade 6 and 7 students were gathered into the school library on the same day for a “discussion” regarding appropriate dress.
School district spokesman Doug Strachan confirmed Thursday that parents were not given advance notice of the discussion, and that Grade 6 and 7 boys were not included in it. The jersey measure, he told PAN, was a “one-off” to deal with the issue in the moment, and was not an “institutionalized” approach.
Many parents took to a closed Facebook page, and then to PAN’s Facebook page after the story went public Thursday afternoon, to voice their opinions on the issue.
Some describe what happened as “ridiculous,” others pointed to a need for education, including around “rape culture.” Several expressed concern with the focus on girls, while others were critical of how some youth are dressing.
“Maybe some self respect and decorum would go a long way,” writes Sandy Evans. “Why not instill some dignity and class at a young age. Dress for success.”
Kim Streifel commented that “some schools dress codes are ridiculous… when it comes to the girls.”
“Now if the girls are wearing booty shorts or micro minis… shame on those parents,” Streifel adds. “I think the school has every right to teach the girls this is inappropriate, if they’re parents are failing to do so. In my opinion.”
Cindy Dalglish, a Surrey school board candidate in last month’s civic election, writes it is “very troubling” that the boys weren’t included in the larger discussion.
“What a person wears does not give the right for others to assign anything to it,” she adds. “Including admin and teachers.”
Another commented that the issue is not about boys, but “about a child containing their innocence while they still have it.”
Welch told PAN she felt the school sexualized her daughter – who is in Grade 6 and turned 11 in September –by making her wear the jersey.
“She was going to school thinking it was an outfit that she liked,” she said. “And it wasn’t the first time she’s worn it.”
Welch said she is strict about what her daughter wears, “even at home,” and that she’d had no concerns with Madison’s choice of attire Tuesday. She posted a photo of Madison in the outfit that got her in trouble at school to PAN’s Facebook page Friday morning “so people can see it” before forming an opinion.
According to a reminder that was included in a May 2018 newsletter, the school dress code’s “only guideline is that dress be in good taste.”
“Clothing should not be offensive or distracting. For example, shorts are acceptable providing that they are not too short,” the reminder reads, in part.
“Tops should not reveal bare back, shoulders, or midriff and undergarments should not be visible.”
Strachan had told PAN Thursday that the school is to continue discussions with parents around dress-code guidelines, approaches and options.
Sent a copy of the photo of Madison’s outfit Friday morning, Strachan was not immediately available to comment further.
The issue was also raised at the school’s parent-advisory committee meeting Thursday. Welch said she was asked by the PAC to attend, but was unable to stay long enough to hear the discussion.
She told PAN she was later advised that the committee had expressed to the principal that “they felt it was 100 per cent inappropriate to be making (the girls) put a jersey on.”
“They felt if there was an issue with the clothing they should be going straight to the parent, and not pointing her out at school,” said Welch.
The principal, she was told, “was quite receptive to the discussion.”
Welch said she would like to see the school revisit its dress-code guidelines, and that she would be interested in participating in that process.