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 has Island parents dressing down school officials

School district 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 Langford’s 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 said.

“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 it’s 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.

For more news from Vancouver Island and beyond delivered daily into your inbox, please click here.

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

dress codeSD62West Shore

Just Posted

NIC’s new president Lisa Domae assumed the role of president on April 12. Domae has worked at NIC since 2000, most recently as the executive vice president, academic and chief operating officer. (SUBMITTED PHOTO)
New North Island College president launches draft strategic plan

Lisa Domae assumed the role of president on April 12, 2021

Terrance Mack would have celebrated his 34th birthday on May 13, 2021. Mack’s family has identified him as the victim of a homicide in an apartment on Third Avenue in Port Alberni sometime in April. (SUBMITTED PHOTO)
Family identifies Ucluelet man as victim of homicide in Port Alberni

Terrance Mack being remembered as kind, gentle man

A crew of WestCoast WILD Adventures employees tackled an onslaught of litter left at the ‘Locks of Love’ fence at Wally Creek on May 2. (Anne-Marie Gosselin photo)
Litter woes continue at ‘Locks of Love’ fence near Tofino-Ucluelet

Popular Highway 4 spot continues to be consumed by disrespect

Black Press Media file photo
POLL: Did you complete your 2021 census form on time?

Have you completed your 2021 census form yet? READ MORE: 2021 census… Continue reading

THC boardmember Melody McLorie and municipal councillor Coun. Duncan McMaster celebrated the start of construction on a 14-unit affordable housing development at 700 Sharp Road in February, 2021. (Westerly file photo)
Tofino Housing Corporation asks for portion of town’s MRDT funds

Tofino’s hotels and resorts collect a 3 per cent Municipal and Regional District Tax from visitors

An avalanche near Highway 1 in Glacier National Park. Avalanche Canada will benefit from a $10 million grant from the B.C. government. (Photo by Parks Canada)
Avalanche Canada receives $10-million grant from B.C. government

Long sought-after funds to bolster organization’s important work

Derek Descoteau with his trusty dog Harvey. (Photo submitted)
Friends provide continuing comfort for family in wake of unresolved senseless B.C. murder

Case remains before the courts five years after Derek Descoteau’s abrupt stabbing death in Chemainus

A prowling coyote proved no match for a stray black cat who chased it out of a Port Moody parking lot Friday, May 14. (Twitter/Screen grab)
VIDEO: Little but fierce: Cat spotted chasing off coyote by Port Moody police

The black cat is seen jumping out from under a parked car and running the wild animal out of a vacant lot

The new wing at the Victoria International Airport opened up on Thursday (File contributed/YYJ)
Pandemic takes ‘hundreds of millions’ out of Victoria Airport, Vancouver Island economy

Airport authority head says passenger volumes down as much as 98 per cent

The top photo is of a real carbine rifle, while the bottom photo is the airsoft rifle seized from a Kelowna man on May 15. (Contributed)
RCMP issue warning: ‘Imitation firearms need to be dealt with responsibly’

A man brandishing his airsoft rifle in public had his weapon seized by Mounties on Saturday

Reigning women’s World Champion Kaetlyn Osmond, who also took bronze at the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, will debut two brand new programs for the 2021 Stars On Ice tour, in Victoria May 15. (File photo)
Kurt Browning, Elvis Stojko hit the ice when Stars On Ice returns to Vancouver Island

The star-studded lineup is makes a return after pandemic hiatus

Abbotsford Regional Hospital. (Black Press Media files)
Canada marks 25,000 COVID-19 deaths since the pandemic began

6 in every 10,000 Canadians died of COVID-19 since March 9, 2020

Staff-Sgt. Svend Nielsen, with the 100 Mile House RCMP. (Melissa Smalley - 100 Mile Free Press)
14-year-old boy killed in serious ATV crash near 100 Mile House

Youth was travelling with a group of peers when the incident occurred last Friday

Relief is coming for B.C.’s struggling tourism sector. (NEWS file photo)
B.C. officials set to announce more support for tourism sector hit hard by pandemic

Non-essential travel is restricted between three regional zones in B.C. until at least May 24

Most Read