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DDSB fashions new dress code for next year

The Durham District School Board has approved a new dress code policy for the 2020/2021 school year.

By Courtney Bachar/The Oshawa Express/LJI Reporter

The list of what students can and cannot wear when they head back to school in the fall is going to look a little different.

The Durham District School Board (DDSB) approved a new Student Dress Code policy at its most recent board meeting.

According to the new policy, as long as the nipples, groin and buttocks are covered, students can now bare their shoulders, stomach, midriff, cleavage, straps, thighs, hips, and waistbands. Hats will also be allowed indoors.

The guidelines also list a number of things that are not allowed in the dress code, including clothing that promotes or symbolizes illegal activity, gang activity, drugs or alcohol, or clothing that promotes, symbolizes or incites hate, discrimination, bias, prejudice, profanity, pornography, incites harassment or bullying, threatens harm to the safety of self or others, of offensive images or language.

Clothing that obscures the face (unless required to meet human rights needs or accommodations), undergarments as outerwear, transparent clothing that fully exposes undergarments, and swimwear unless required for a school activity.

The policy revision process involved the creation of a student dress code committee, which included a total of five trustees, including the three student trustees, as well as principal, vice-principal and teacher voices. Feedback from students, parents and administrators was also considered.

As a former student of the board, Oshawa Trustee Ashley Noble, who moved the motion, says she recalls struggling with the dress code as well.

“The concern I’m hearing from students is that a lot are struggling to truly express themselves,” she says.  “We have the opportunity right now to show our students that we do care about what they’re saying.”

Oshawa and Whitby Student Trustee Sally Meseret says the way a student dresses is the way they “physically and materially interact with the education system and the students around them,” adding the only thing a policy should do is create an avenue for a student to safely express themselves.

“Our job is to protect that self-expression and make sure that every individual is able to have the same ability to express themselves in a way they feel comfortable with, because the way you feel coming to school impacts the way you learn,” she continues.

“School-level dress codes (a “Student Dress Code”) formed by parents, guardians, staff, and students, promotes a safe, equitable, welcoming, respectful and inclusive environment for teaching and learning that supports student well-being and is free from discrimination,” the policy reads.

“The dress code policy is revised every five years to ensure consistency of practice at the school level, and to ensure that we apply the principles of human rights code, equity, diversity, and inclusion.”

“The DDSB is committed to ensuring that school-level student dress codes consider and address the disproportionate and negative impacts that dress code policies may have on specific groups of students based on their identities, are progressive and honour the diverse needs and identities and safety of all students and staff, and consider and address any safety issues related to the dress code,” the policy continues.

DDSB’s next steps will be moving forward with a communication plan to ensure that schools understand the expectations for the revision of their dress codes.