TVDSB to develop board-wide dress code that respects student expression

Students listening to teacher in a classroom. File photo courtesy of © Can Stock Photo / 4774344sean

The largest public school board in southwestern Ontario is updating its dress code to stop infringement of student creativity and self expression, while making rules that are consistent for all of its schools.

Thames Valley District school board (TVDSB) trustees voted unanimously Tuesday night to develop a new board-wide dress code policy. Currently, each school has its own set of rules surrounding what students can and can’t wear.

The motion was put forward by Trustee Laura Gonzalez, who said the dress code should not police a student’s individual expression or personal choice.

“(We’re) looking at reducing the duplication of work across different schools and applying a human rights and equity lens, after hearing from constituents and based on the experience of other large school boards,” said Gonzalez.

She stated that the new board-wide dress code should support a safe-school environment based on the principals of anti-oppressive, anti-discriminatory, equitable, and inclusive education. But it should also recognize what students decide to wear reflects individual expression of identity, socio cultural norms, and economic factors and are personal and important factors to a person’s health and well-being.

Student trustee Savrup Saran told the board she has heard concerns from many students about what the current school-based dress code entails.

“Female-identifying students and students in part of the BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Colour) community in particular have expressed that they faced extreme scrutiny for not following the dress code even though guidelines would suggest that they are not in violation of dress code at all. Students are concerned that the implementation of dress codes remain inconsistent when speaking of school based dress codes,” said Saran.

She added that through direct interaction with students she’s learned that students are in favour of “one board-wide dress code that addresses dress code violations such as profanity on clothing, cultural appropriation and more.”

A timeline for when the new board-wide dress code will be drafted and implemented was not given.