NorKam secondary student Karis Wilson in the outfit that got her sent home from school on Feb. 23, 2021

NorKam secondary student Karis Wilson in the outfit that got her sent home from school on Feb. 23, 2021

Kamloops-Thompson school district drafts new dress code policy after students sent home

The new policy is being created after a NorKam secondary student was sent home because of what she was wearing

  • Feb. 26, 2021 2:30 p.m.

-Kamloops This Week

A revised district-wide dress code policy is on the way for School District 73.

The new policy is being created after Grade 12 NorKam secondary student Karis Wilson was pulled out of class and sent home because of what she was wearing — a lace-trimmed, knee-length dress worn over top a long-sleeve turtleneck shirt.

The incident led to a walkout by some NorKam students on Wednesday (Feb. 24) and has drawn thousands of comments on social media and news stories from across the province.

SD73 Supt. Terry Sullivan said he couldn’t comment on that incident specifically, citing privacy concerns, but did confirm that an updated policy will be revealed in the coming weeks, likely by the end of March.

“Dress codes have to evolve as the norms and values of society evolve,” he told KTW.

Sullivan said he has researched dress code policies in the past, during his previous tenure as district superintendent, and cited an incident in the 1950s as evidence of how norms have continued to change.

“I found that there were a number of students in 1956 who were suspended in a Vancouver high school for wearing saddle shoes,” he said. Saddle shoes are simple black and white Oxford-style shoes, apparently once considered inappropriate as school attire.

“The point is, dress codes have to evolve,” he said.

Sullivan said the district’s dress code policy has been under review for months, following an incident in the fall at South Kamloops secondary.

After a new district-wide policy is put in place, Sullivan said schools will be able to develop their own dress codes in conformity with the district’s policy.

“Hopefully, I think it will be more in tune with respect to where everybody is at at this point,” Sullivan said, noting a draft of the policy is already circulating among staff.

But some have called for a more collaborative approach, including Kamloops Sexual Assault Counselling Centre co-ordinator Alix Dolson, who offered the agency’s guidance to SD73 in developing a new policy.

“I think it’s pretty clear these policies target female-identifying students disproportionately,” Dolson told KTW.

At issue, in particular, is item 1.8 of SD73’s administrative procedure 350.2, which states that school dress codes must consider “the wearing of clothing or clothing worn in a way that detracts from the teaching/learning process.”

Dolson said any policy that must be interpreted by administrators or teachers as to whether or not an outfit is distracting is problematic.

“If people have more conservative views and that’s the approach they want to take in dressing their own bodies, they can do that. But that’s about as far as that can extend,” Dolson said. “Conservative values around modesty are rooted in sexual morals. You can’t parse the two apart.”

Dolson said dress codes such as SD73’s reinforce rape culture and paint students as inherently sexual and as something shameful.

“It just reinforces those ideas that young women’s bodies are inherently sexual and it’s up to them to protect other people from having a sexual response to themselves,” Dolson said.

Dolson said she favours a student-led approach to the matter, such as what is underway at South Kamloops secondary, where students are involved in a committee to develop a dress code there.

READ MORE: Shuswap auto recycler breaks out of Rust Valley for Backroad Truckers

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism? Make a donation here.

Kamloops

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Guy Barber in front of his jewellery store at 208 Mackenzie Avenue, circa 1915. (Revelstoke Museum and Archives photo 272)
Glimspes of Revelstoke’s past for April 8

Local history as recorded by the newspaper of the time

Downtown Revelstoke. (Liam Harrap/Revelstoke Review)
LETTER: Finding Common Ground Through COVID-19

‘How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.’

Alchemy Studio received a ticked from the RCMP on Thursday, April 8, for staying open despite provincial restrictions ordering yoga studios be closed to prevent the spread of COVID-19. (Contributed)
Revelstoke yoga class fined for defying COVID-19 orders

The RCMP were called to the Alchemy Studio on April 8

The Royal’s 1959 visit to Revelstoke. (Photo by Revelstoke Museum and Archives #17)
PHOTOS: Prince Philip visited Revelstoke – twice

The prince died April 9 at the age of 99

B.C's COVID-19 dashboard shows the peaks and valleys of cases prior to the record daily report of 132 on April 9, 2021. (Dashboard image)
Interior Health has record day of COVID-19 cases

132 cases reported Friday, April 9, more deaths in Vernon hospital outbreak

B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix and Premier John Horgan describe vaccine rollout at the legislature, March 29, 2021. (B.C. government)
1,262 more COVID-19 infections in B.C. Friday, 9,574 active cases

Province’s mass vaccination reaches one million people

These nails were collected off the Campbell Mountain bike trails in Penticton this weekend. Someone placed them all over the trail. (Facebook)
Hundreds of nails placed on popular Penticton bike trail

A mountain biker took to Facebook to warn others about the nails

A second case of COVID-19 has been confirmed at Vernon’s BX Elementary School. (Kerry Hutter photo)
Second COVID case confirmed at Okanagan elementary school

Exposure at Vernon’s BX Elementary happened April 6 and 7

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good
Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

People walk past the Olympic rings in Whistler, B.C., Friday, May 15, 2020. Whistler which is a travel destination for tourists around the world is seeing the effects of travel bans due to COVID-19. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Adults living, working in Whistler, B.C., eligible for COVID-19 vaccine on Monday

The move comes as the province deals with a rush of COVID-19 and variant cases in the community

RCMP crest. (Black Press Media files)
UPDATE: RCMP investigating after child, 6, dies at motel in Duncan, B.C.

The BC Coroners Service is conducting its own investigation into the circumstances around the child’s death

Highway 97 being converted to four lanes in April 1990. This photo taken in Lake Country. (Greater Vernon Museum and Archives Photo #14025)
HISTORY: How the old Highway 97 in Lake Country got new name

Pelmewash Parkway recognizes the First Nations history in Lake Country

RCMP display some of the fish seized from three suspects who pleaded guilty to violating the Fisheries Act in 2019, in this undated handout photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO - RCMP
3 banned from fishing, holding licences after overfishing violations near Vancouver Island

Mounties seized the group’s 30-foot fishing vessel and all equipment on board at the time

Most Read