A decision regarding the removal of dress codes at schools across Greater Victoria will have to wait a little longer as School District 61 trustees voted to send a recommendation back for further consultation at a meeting Monday night.
“I think we’re moving forward on this issue, not backwards,” said Trustee Jordan Watters, who has filed a motion to suspend the enforcement of school dress codes in the interim.
Of the 47 schools in SD61, only 22 have dress codes, and those are primarily middle schools, she said, adding it’s kids between the ages of 11 and 14 who are “really getting the brunt of this.”
She said she heard a teacher make reference to a female student who was “over-developed,” so it’s not just girls who are targeted by the current dress code, but certain girls.
The dress code debate has heard some decisive statements from board members, principals and teachers. But Watters thinks it’s just a lot of wasted time and energy that could be spent on learning, and supporting a more diverse idea about what is appropriate to wear to school.
“We need to stop policing bodies,” Watters said, recognizing the culture is deep seeded. She worries the broader message being sent is that boys are not responsible for their own feelings. As a mother of boys, she said, it’s demeaning to think they can’t control themselves or focus.
Watters is also concerned with the varied methods of enforcement of the current dress code, something she calls a real subjective decision. One parent contacted her to say the principal of her 11-year-old’s school called to say her daughter needed to wear a bra.
However, the success of a recently implemented gender expression and identity policy gives Watters hope.
“I’m certainly disappointed,” she said of last night’s decision. “But I’m supportive of ongoing consultations.”
Trustees will revisit the recommendation at a school board meeting Oct. 23.