A new Hazelton Secondary School (HSS) dress code is unbuttoning a larger conversation on clothing.
Anissa Watson is a mother of four, with one of her daughters currently at HSS in Grade 10.
She said she first saw the revised dress code at the end of May when her daughter brought it home one day.
“She said, ‘Mom look at this,’ It was mostly images of women’s bodies and with lines pointing to different things the schools did not want the girls to be wearing.”
The image associated with the dress code received by The Interior News appears to show eight individuals — six girls and two boys — wearing various examples of clothing that is prohibited.
“Don’t wear: clothing that does not provide adequate coverage of your body,” reads one of the rules on the page, with four lines extended towards various figures on the page, all of which appear to be female.
“Don’t wear: backless tops or clothes with revealing holes or tears,” another reads, with a single line pointing to an individual who appears to be female.
Despite the above, another illustration shows an individual who appears to be male in a baggy tank top that appears to have ripped sleeves and saggy jeans with only an arrow pointing to the latter as being in contradiction of the new code.
Carole Gagnon, executive assistant for School District 82 (SD82), said it’s required for schools to update their dress codes annually to be in compliance with their overall Code of Conduct.
“Working with young adults at this time of year (when the temperatures increase) can become problematic when students make choices around wardrobe that may or may not be consistent with … the school Code of Conduct,” she said in an email to The Interior News.
Gagnon said because HSS has a new administrative team, rewriting the dress code to be in compliance with the school’s Code of Conduct “only recently came to light as a potential issue.”
Watson said that while she supports the idea of a dress code and a larger conversation around what is appropriate and not appropriate for kids to wear to school, she doesn’t feel the way the new code was implemented was appropriate.
“There was no preamble from the school, no consultation with parents, no consultations with students.
“My first thought was, ‘Oh, I was at the school yesterday helping out as a volunteer [and] I broke dress code — I wore a tank top.’ It was 27 degrees, you know?”
She added that beyond the physical limitations of the code, she was bothered by the emphasis it placed on girls ostensibly distracting boys by what they are wearing.
“My daughter was told that she shouldn’t wear something that [will] cause a boy to have to cover his eyes to walk down the hallway, that’s my concern, the dress code isn’t there to teach the students about respect and professionalism,” she said, adding that when her daughter expressed concerns to a male teacher she was told she was being immature.
“[She said], ‘You know, if you’re concerned about seeing my chest, well I’m kind of concerned about the times I can see your chest,’ [and] as a young female student she was told that she was being childish and stupid.”
Watson said she has been in contact with other parents with kids at HSS since then and they have expressed similar concerns to her about the new dress code.
Gagnon said that the current dress code is an interim measure and that HSS and SD82 will be taking input from parents on subsequent revisions, adding that the district has confidence in all parties to ensure an environment that is conducive to learning.
“Input from all stakeholders is key to any successful policy. Together, the HSS community will design a dress code that has received input and review from all involved.”