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During a Chilliwack School District Board meeting on March 12th, 2019 school trustees debated whether school dress code regulation was to be changed because it discriminates against girls.
The policy was put forward by school trustee and board Vice-Chair Willow Reichelt.
Reichelt describes the current dress code policies implemented in the school district as “discriminatory” based on gender.
“I believe that the dress codes in most of our schools currently contravene our safe schools policy because they discriminate on the basis of gender and socioeconomic factors, as well as body type,” claims Reichelt in the meeting agenda.
Reichelt cites several examples as discriminatory practices based on gender in her policy recommendation:
- Students not being allowed to wear overly revealing clothes, such as low necklines and see-through blouses
- Underwear and bras are not allowed to be showing while at school
- Skirts should be mid-thigh length
- Girls are required not to wear any shirts which reveal cleavage
- Students are not allowed to wear tight or revealing clothing
Practices like changing clothes if they are deemed to be inappropriate are also condemned by Reichelt in her policy recommendation. The vice-chair also claims that the policy discriminates against students based on socioeconomic status and body type.
“The no bra-strap rule is also very difficult for some people because larger breasts usually means wider bra-straps,” says Reichelt.
Heather Maahs, a school trustee spoke of the policy as an overreach and “micromanagement at its worst”.
“The background statement has categorically insulted and accused our PACS and schools and staffs of discriminating against students when in fact the intent of the dress codes are intended to protect students, they’re not intended to discriminate against or malign them,” critiqued Maahs.
At one point during the policy debate, Reichelt laughed at Maahs’ criticism that the policy encourages predatory behavior and puts children in vulnerable situations.
“There are predators out there who are looking for students who are vulnerable,” said Maahs. “We cannot afford to say free for all, there are students out there who will dress in provocative ways looking for the wrong kind of attention.”
“I disagree with it and I think putting such a prescriptive and narrow policy before a committee is not respectful of them because first of all I would like to know how the principals would feel about this,” said school board trustee Barry Neufeld.
Neufeld, who was an avid opponent of the Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity curriculum voted against the policy claiming it was a reflection of Reichelt’s “worldview”.
The policy eventually passed and will be put forward for consideration by the Educational Policy Advisory Committee (EPAC).
Trustee Heather Maahs publicly criticized the motion after it was passed claiming that the trustees who voted for it have ideological intentions.
“This community needs to understand what has happened tonight. These four ideologues have just decided that they know what’s in the best interests of the students over and above all those who work with them,” said Maahs.