The dress code policy of School District 73 is being called into question after a Grade 12 student was sent home for wearing an outfit that included a lace-trimmed dress worn over top a long-sleeve turtleneck shirt.
NorKam secondary student Karis Wilson said she was called out of class by her teacher on Tuesday morning and sent to the principal’s office due to her outfit.
Karis said she was told by her English teacher, a woman, that her outfit was making her and a male student teacher uncomfortable. She was sent to the principal’s office and then offered the opportunity to go home and change and return, choosing to stay home for the day.
“I came back in and I was grabbing my things, almost in tears, and my friends were all asking me what happened,” Karis said.
Karis said she was in class for 20 minutes before the issue was brought to her attention.
The district’s dress code specifies a number of items of clothing that may not be worn by students, including clothes that promote the use of drugs or alcohol, that depict vulgar or sexual language or images, that discriminate against protected groups, that promote violence or violent groups or clothing that is “worn in a way that detracts from the teaching/learning process.”
Karis said it was never explained to her how her outfit detracted from the learning process, but was told the lace on the garment made it look like a slip dress.
“I wasn’t even aware of what a slip was, and that it was a type of lingerie, and that’s what it reminded her of,” Karis said.
“But it’s not my fault that I remind you of something sexual. You shouldn’t be thinking about me in that manner.”
Karis said she initially wore the dress as part of a photo shoot with her horses last summer.
Karis’ father, Chris Wilson — KTW’s digital sales manager — said he feels the policy gives teachers too much discretion.
“That, to me, just kind of gives them carte blanche on it and you run into this, where you have an old-school teacher who is offended by it,” he said.
Wilson said his daughter is the type to normally wear sweatpants and a hoodie and hasn’t pushed the boundaries of what is acceptable to wear at school.
“At the end of the day, there should be clear guidelines, just like at work,” he said.
Karis said she is speaking out so that no one else is called out over clothing that isn’t too revealing.
“I don’t want this to happen to anyone else, so I’m going to make a big deal out of it. If I can help anyone, I’d like to. I am kind of nervous to go back into class because I don’t know what it’s going to be like,” she said.
Karis believes teachers should use professional development time for sensitivity training.
“Older teachers, I get it. They were raised at a different time and they have different opinions, but if they are going to be a teacher, they have such a big influence on young people’s lives … I don’t think there should be teachers dragging you down, saying that what you’re wearing reminds them of something that is sexual to them,” she said.
KTW contacted School District 73 for comment and is awaiting a response.
Sean Brady, Kamloops This Week
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