High school tackles touchy subject of dress code

Princeton Secondary School is grappling with its own version of "What Not to Wear."

Princeton Secondary School is grappling with its own version of “What Not to Wear.”

Administrators and teachers are discussing a dress code for the fall, and have already started to school students on some manners of attire, according to principal Patrick Kaiser.

“I’ve had a couple of conversations with students about their attire,” said Kaiser, “solely about what’s already in our code of conduct around what’s on your clothing. As a school we are not going to promote drugs and alcohol.”

Kaiser said on one occasion recently he required a student to wear his t-shirt inside out, as it featured a Canada flag constructed of marijuana leaves.

There was no single event that precipitated conversations about a dress code, he said, explaining there has been “feedback from teachers and concerns from teachers” regarding how some students dress for class.

“We are just trying to look at where we can provide some sound guidelines for our school. And we are being mindful and respectful of self expression and self identity and all those things…We are not just going to arbitrarily impose rules for the sake of imposing rules.”

The appropriate nature, or lack thereof, of school attire should be considered the same as what is accepted in the workplace, he added.

“Our next step would probably be to pull together some focus groups with students and then see if we can create a small group of people willing to work together to craft what this would look like and then I would do a presentation to the assistant superintendent and superintendent to see if this is just a school policy and we can proceed with or if I need to take it to the board.”

Kaiser emphasized he is aware dress codes can be particularly touchy subjects for female students.

“My initial thing is this needs to be a dress code that encompasses the entire student body. I am not okay with a dress code for girls and then really nothing for boys. This needs to be a dress code that is respectful of every person in this school and not one that singles out a specific gender over another,” he said.

“That is certainly something that I’m aware of and something that is absolutely forefront in my mind.”

The Spotlight spoke to several students from PSS about the issue, and while none wished to go on record with their feelings on a dress code, one reported that a female student was asked last week to cover her midriff which was exposed by a crop top.

“That is not something I am aware of,” said Kaiser. “I would not want to speak one way or another without a little more information.”

Kaiser said the consultative process of drafting a dress code will be a beneficial exercise for students.

“I’m looking forward to the learning opportunity that is going to be in front of the students. What does it look like to advocate for what you want in a setting like this and how do we get our voices heard because I think that’s an important issue.”

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