Spencer Middle School doesn’t actually have a detailed dress code, but an email suggesting a connection between warm weather and code violations started an online storm. (Zoe Ducklow|News Staff)

Spencer Middle School doesn’t actually have a detailed dress code, but an email suggesting a connection between warm weather and code violations started an online storm. (Zoe Ducklow|News Staff)

‘Distractive’ clothing reminder leaves West Shore parents layering complaints

Dress code reminder sparks outrage among parents for being sexist

“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.”

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

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.

RELATED: Sleeveless dresses are OK, B.C. legislature speaker says in dress code update

Krystal Bunce’s son goes to a School District 61 middle school, where there is no dress code. She’s one of the people who wrote to Russell with her concerns. She also commented on the Westshore Mums group, saying that her son was taught from an early age that his body is his alone and other peoples bodies are are not for him.

“They are not there for his entertainment. He is in charge of his own learning and if he fails because he is distracted by a girl that is his own fault not the girl’s. Not to mention that ogling girls no matter what they are wearing is not O.K.…”

Three years ago SD61, that covers Greater Victoria, rewrote its dress code after several female students were sent home for wearing leggings.

“With our new policy in place we take the first step towards a future where no body is a distraction and all children are welcome to express themselves without fear of shame,” Trustee Jordan Watters wrote at the time.

RELATED: ‘Gender-specific’ items removed from B.C. district’s dress codes

dress codeSD62West Shore

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

Just Posted

A Nexii roof panel is lifted during construction of a Starbucks in Abbotsford. Alexzi Building Solutions will be building a manufacturing plant in Langford or North Cowichan to produce the sustainable construction panels. (Photo courtesy of Alexzi Building Solutions)
Langford eyed for facility to make green building alternative to concrete

Langford, North Cowichan possible sites for plant to create sustainable construction panels

Local MP Elizabeth May says the public has a right to know the identity of the company that plans to operate the massive warehouse proposed for Sidney on airport lands but residents who want to stop the project would probably have to go through the courts. (Black Press Media File)
MP Elizabeth May says public has right to know identity of Sidney warehouse operator

Residents wanting to stop the project would probably have to go through the courts, said May

Bukwila by Art Thompson, set at the steps of Lansdowne campus’ Wilna Thomas Cultural Centre, has been welcoming students to campus since 1997. (Photo courtesy of Camosun College)
World-renowned artist’s legacy lives on at Camosun College

Art Thompson made untold contributions toward Indigenous education, art and advocacy

Did you know, according to the CRD, every person produces an average of 185–200 litres of wastewater per day? Here’s where most of it gets treated, at the new wastewater treatment facility at McLoughlin Point in Esquimalt. (CRD image)
View Royal signs on to wastewater funding plan

Capital Regional District requesting to borrow up to $34.3 million to upgrade infrastructure

(The Canadian Press)
Trudeau won’t say whether Canada supports patent waiver for COVID-19 vaccines

‘Canada is at the table to help find a solution’

Edmonton Oilers’ Connor McDavid (97) celebrates his 100th point this season with Leon Draisaitl (29) against the Vancouver Canucks during second period NHL action in Edmonton on Saturday, May 8, 2021.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Edmonton superstar McDavid hits 100-point mark as Oilers edge Canucks 4-3

NHL scoring leader needs just 53 games to reach century mark

A map showing where the most number of cases were recorded from April 23 to 29. This map, revealing a breakdown of infections by neighborhood, was pulled from a data package leaked to the Vancouver Sun last week (and independently verified).
36 Abbotsford schools flagged for COVID-19 exposures in the last 2 weeks, shattering record

Clearbrook Elementary recorded an ‘exposure’ on all 11 school days

Island Health has confirmed COVID-19 exposures at Ecole des Deux Mondes in Campbell River on May 4 and 5, and at Mill Bay Nature School in Mill Bay on April 28, 29, 30 and May 3. (Metro Creative photo)
Two new COVID-19 school exposures confirmed by Island Health

Health authority contacting anyone exposed at Ecole des Deux Mondes, Mill Bay Nature School

Canada’s chief public health officer is reminding Canadians even those who are fully vaccinated are not immune from transmitting the COVID-19. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada’s top doctor warns full vaccination does not equal full protection from COVID-19

Post-inoculation, Theresa Tam says the risk of asymptomatic infection and transmission is far lower but not obsolete

The dash cam footage, taken May 7 at 8:18 a.m. belonged to the driver of a southbound vehicle that recently travelled out of the tunnel. (Reddit/Screen grab)
VIDEO: Dash cam captures dramatic rollover crash on Highway 99

Only one person sustained injuries from the collision, says B.C. Ambulance Services

Chevy stranded on a ledge above a rocky canyon at Mimi Falls near Logan Lake, April 28, 2021. (Photo credit: Margot Wikjord)
Police officer and fire chief team up in risky rescue of stranded dog near Logan Lake

Chevy, a rescue dog, needed rescuing again after getting stuck on a ledge above rocky canyon

Police were on the scene of a fatal shooting in Abbotsford. (Black Press Media files)
B.C. government to give more than $8 million for programs to curb gang violence

221 not-for-profit projects led by local governments and school districts among others will receive a one-time grant

Most Read