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)

Clothing that ‘detracts from learning process’ removed from SD73 student dress code

Policy change underway after student in knee-length dress, long-sleeve turtleneck sent home

  • Apr. 13, 2021 3:40 p.m.

By Sean Brady, Kamloops This Week

School District 73 has created a draft dress code that has stripped out language about clothing that “detracts from the learning process,” following incidents that saw students removed from class due to their outfits.

Various stakeholder groups are now preparing to provide feedback at upcoming meetings and a new policy is expected to be put in place in the coming months.

The district has been reviewing its policy since late 2020, but recent incidents have prodded the process along, including one at NorKam secondary in late February, when Grade 12 student Karis Wilson was rebuked by her teacher for wearing a lace-trimmed, knee-length dress over top a long-sleeve turtleneck shirt.

Wilson was called out by her teacher and removed from her class because her outfit was deemed to violate the district’s dress code, specifically, “the wearing of clothing or clothing worn in a way that detracts from the teaching/learning process.”

The incident made headlines and prompted discussion about how appropriate it is for school teachers and administrators to use their discretion in enforcing the dress code.

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

Read more: Girls were told certain clothes ‘sometimes distract the boys’: B.C. 11-year-old

The new draft policy omits the line and adds language about how teachers and administrators should deal with infractions.

“Wherever possible, staff shall respond to Student Dress Code violations in a manner that … is discreet, respectful and clearly references the specifics of the dress code concern,” the draft policy reads.

Among the nine stakeholder groups being consulted, which include parent, student and teacher groups, is Alix Dolson from the Kamloops Sexual Assault Counselling Centre.

“To call a student out publicly, there’s a lot of shame and embarrassment that goes along with that, so the goal should always be, in any kind of intervention with a student, to do so discreetly and respectfully, so I think that’s a good call on the school board’s part,” Dolson told KTW, noting the more subjective parts of the policy have been removed.

What remains of the policy are items barring clothing that promotes hatred, the use of drugs, alcohol and tobacco or illegal activity, or contains obscene or pornographic images.

“That’s where the focus should be for dress codes, on appropriateness for school setting and not on students’ bodies,” Dolson said.

Dolson and representatives from the other groups will hold their first meeting on Wednesday (April 14) before retreating to prepare written feedback.

That feedback will then be discussed in May before the policy is brought before the school board for approval.

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