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School dress code sparks backlash

The letter posted at Erickson Collegiate on May 30 by Grade 11 student Diana Dawson. Dawson and other students do not agree with the dress code and how violations are dealt with.

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The letter posted at Erickson Collegiate on May 30 by Grade 11 student Diana Dawson. Dawson and other students do not agree with the dress code and how violations are dealt with. (SUBMITTED)

Change could be on the horizon after debate around student dress codes heated up at Erickson Collegiate.

Grade 11 student Diana Dawson got the attention of the school after she posted letters questioning the reasons behind the school’s dress code.

"We had an assembly about the dress code and how we all need to dress appropriately because this is a school and a workplace," Dawson said. "I wanted to ask then what was inappropriate about it, but I didn’t."

A few days after the assembly, all the girls were called to meet with principal Barry Lee again about the dress code. Dawson said she was going to ask about the length of her shorts, but was cut off and told not to debate or she would lose her privilege to play rugby.

"If I can’t talk to my own principal about this dress code, who am I supposed to talk to?" Dawson asked. "That’s when I remembered the letter and decided to get the school’s attention instead."

Lee did not return phone calls from the Brandon Sun all week.

Rolling River School Division policy allows each school to determine their own student dress code with the help of students, parents, staff and administration. The policy calls for the dress code to be reviewed annually.

Dawson said she did not know that this policy was in place and has never heard of a meeting students could attend.

Division Supt. Reg Klassen said annual reviews are done on the honour system. Schools do not tell him when or if they have taken place.

When initially asked about the incident on Thursday, Klassen said he had not been made aware that the letters had been posted.

Klassen was able to talk to a parent, student and staff member about the problems with the dress code later on Thursday.

"It is a bit of a stylish thing," Klassen said. "The issue appears to be mainly with the length of shorts."

Klassen explained that not all students have the same sense of what is and is not appropriate in school and work environments. Dress codes have a habit of causing problems at most high schools in the spring when the weather gets warm.

Short-length shorts are also an issue at other high schools within the division.

Minnedosa student Catrin Davies said it is difficult to find stores that sell shorts that are the correct length for the dress code that are also within the price range students can afford.

This argument was also presented to Klassen by the student he spoke with Thursday.

He said it is confusing how some students manage to find stores that sell appropriate length shorts and others do not.

"I would love to see the issue of dress codes taken to the school division," Dawson said. "It would be nice if they would even have a baseline for a division-wide dress code."

Although Klassen does not agree with having a division-wide dress code, he said that he would have no problem with students wanting to discuss dress codes with him if they did not feel they could talk to someone at their school.

"I believe there is value in each school to determine their dress code," Klassen said. "This gives parents and students the ability to influence the dress code and having annual conversations puts schools in a place to respond to fast-changing styles."

Klassen’s advice to students who would like to have a review of their dress code is to approach their principal for one. He also said he intends to check in with schools more often about having the dress code reviewed by students and parents along with the school staff.

» mlane@brandonsun.com

Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition June 7, 2014

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Change could be on the horizon after debate around student dress codes heated up at Erickson Collegiate.

Grade 11 student Diana Dawson got the attention of the school after she posted letters questioning the reasons behind the school’s dress code.

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Change could be on the horizon after debate around student dress codes heated up at Erickson Collegiate.

Grade 11 student Diana Dawson got the attention of the school after she posted letters questioning the reasons behind the school’s dress code.

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