The debate about dress codes for SD61 schools continued Monday night at a Board of Education meeting.
Last month, the board of trustees’ decision regarding the removal of dress codes was put on pause as it passed a motion to refer it back to the sub-committee for further consultation. It was felt that there had not been adequate parent consultation.
In the interim, school trustee Jordan Watters – who first brought up the dress code motion in March 2016, wants the district to suspend enforcement of the current dress code until a decision is reached. On Monday, Watters brought that motion forward, however it was defeated by the board.
“It would flaw the process,” says school board chair Edith Loring-Kuhanga. “The board had already made a decision to send it back to the committee for further discussion and broader consultation. So it wouldn’t be correct for us to suspend all dress codes and leave our administration and staff and students in limbo while the committee was working on further advancing the dress code.”
While Watters was disappointed that the motion was defeated, she is looking at the bigger picture.
“The motion generated debate, which I am glad about. I am disappointed in it being defeated, but in the broader picture, I really do trust the process and that we will get there eventually. We just have to have more consultation. There needs to be more education,” says Watters.
Watters intention with the proposed change to dress codes is to have everyone agree on a statement of guiding principles and then from there build administrative guidelines that support administrators. The goal of the change is to properly support students with respect to their agency and mental health.
“Dress codes have been intended to solve problems, but they’ve never really solved that problem,” says Watters. “I think it’s detracting from helping us support our students where they are – whether that’s that they are wearing a hat because they feel disconnected from the school community or they are struggling with something at home and they want their hoodie on as a feeling of protection. Or somebody who is pushing boundaries by experimenting with different kinds of clothing. We want to be able to support the students and be respectful of their mental heath and also their agency in being able to make their own decisions.”
Watters and the sub-committee tasked with consultation are working to make parents aware of what is happening and the conversations that are taking place. They have received dozens of letters and are encouraging dialogue.
There is currently no timeline or deadline for when the consultation should be complete.
“It has caused a lot of discussion and media attention. It is a hotly contested topic so the sooner we can get some direction from the board I think the better off everyone will be in the district,” says Loring-Kuhanga.
If parents would like to add their input, letters can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org