Trustee Heather Maahs argues her points at the Chilliwack school board table on March 12. Her comments and those of a fellow have come under fire for blaming girls for men’s actions. (Black Press Media files)

‘Disgusting and shameful’: School dress code debate by B.C. trustees irk union head

International Longshore and Warehouse Union president Rob Ashton calls out Chilliwack trustees

He may be an unlikely representative to be speaking out on school policies, but the union president for B.C. dock workers is calling out Chilliwack trustees over comments raised during a recent debate on dress codes.

International Longshore and Warehouse Union president Rob Ashton posted a letter to Chilliwack School District board chair Dan Coulter on Friday, expressing his “complete disgust” with statements made by two trustees while debating a motion to create a district-wide policy to replace individual school dress codes.

During the board meeting Tuesday, Trustee Darrel Furgason said it is a girl’s responsibility to dress modestly, calling teaching boys not to react an untested “experiment.” He added there are “many needy girls from families who may be victims of voyeurism.”

Furgason also said in his years teaching religious studies he would find it distracting to be sitting across from a girl who was “immodestly” dressed.

Trustee Heather Maahs said if girls are allowed to wear what they want at school, it would put them in danger on school grounds and increase predatory behavior from men in the community. She said girls who dress certain ways are “looking for the wrong kind of attention.”

READ MORE: Dress code debate includes heated exchange, head-turning claims

READ MORE: BCTF president speaks up on Chilliwack dress code comments

Ashton, who has two daughters, called on the board members to either retract their statements or resign.

He said that putting the blame of unwanted attention based on the way a person dresses has made room for people like Brock Turner, the Stanford University swimmer who was convicted of sexually assaulting an unconscious woman.

“People like Brock are created with the language that is coming from some of the Chilliwack School Board members in the media,” Ashton wrote.

He went on to say that a woman should have the right to dress as she chooses and that men need to be taught to respect boundaries.

“The onus is on men to control themselves and if they can’t then they should be punished harshly for violating the boundaries and trust of another human being,” he said. “You as a school board should be instilling this in the next generation rather than the garbage that some of you have been projecting in the media.”

Ashton isn’t the first to speak out about the school trustees’ comments. In an interview this week with Black Press Media, B.C. Teachers Federation president Glen Hansman didn’t hold back his condemnation, calling the comments outdated and ones made by Furgason “creepy.”

Since facing backlash, Furgason has defended his comments in a post on his Worldview Studies Center Facebook page.

“I stand for decency, modesty and a dress code that reflects a professional environment,” he said.

– With files from Jessica Peters, The Chilliwack Progress


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ashley.wadhwani@bpdigital.ca

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