Mother Jackie Welch said this is the outfit worn by her daughter on the day school officials made her wear a jersey over her clothes at South Meridian Elementary. (Contributed photo)

Girls were told certain clothes ‘sometimes distract the boys’: B.C. 11-year-old

South Surrey student Madison Welch ‘embarrassed’ to be covered up with school’s jersey

From Madison Welch’s perspective, the message to Grade 6 and 7 girls at South Meridian Elementary last week was clear: shorter shorts, crop tops and spaghetti straps “sometimes distract the boys.”

But the 11-year-old says it was a surprise and “really embarrassing” when she and a friend were singled out soon after its delivery and made to cover up with school jerseys – Madison, for wearing a top her grandmother had bought her, that left her shoulders exposed; her friend, for “wearing a T-shirt just to her pant line.”

READ MORE: South Surrey elementary students cautioned about clothing

READ MORE: Outfit covered up by South Surrey school officials ‘purchased by grandmother’

Not only did Madison not have any inkling that her outfit violated the school’s dress code, but she said the girls had also just been told, as part of the same message, that the jersey rule for inappropriate dress wasn’t to take effect so immediately.

“They had said the rules didn’t start until the next day,” Madison told Peace Arch News Friday. “Everyone was confused as to why we had to wear one.”

PAN reported on the issue online last Thursday, after parents took to social media – first in a closed Facebook group, then in response to PAN’s online article – to share concerns and opinions as to how it was handled.

District spokesman Doug Strachan confirmed at that time that the Grade 6 and 7 boys were not included in the dress-code discussion, and that parents were not given advance notice that the girls would be spoken to.

He also said, after consulting with the school’s principal, that the girls “were not told” that certain clothing could be a distraction. And, he said, the jersey measure was “not an institutionalized approach.”

Madison, who turned 11 in September, said she understands that some outfits simply aren’t appropriate for school and that “it should matter if it’s super-inappropriate.”

“But if it’s off the shoulder, showing the shoulder a little, that should be OK,” she said.

A reminder about the school’s dress code was included in the school’s May 2018 newsletter.

“Children need to be properly dressed for attendance at school. Appropriate dress is primarily the responsibility of parents. If in doubt, be conservative,” it states, in part.

“Our only guideline is that dress be in good taste. Clothing should not be offensive or distracting. For example, shorts are acceptable providing that they are not too short. Tops should not reveal bare back, shoulders, or midriff and undergarments should not be visible.”

A photo of the outfit Madison had been wearing that day was forwarded to Strachan Friday morning via email, after her mother, Jackie Welch, posted it to Facebook.

Asked for comment regarding whether the district agrees it was inappropriate for school, and to respond to Madison’s assertion that she and her peers were indeed told certain outfits “sometimes the distract the boys,” his response was limited.

“The principal says there was a very positive and fruitful meeting on a school dress code, involving the Parent Advisory Council executive and parents, that will aim at balancing individual liberty, social convention, functionality, community standards and school community values,” Strachan said by email late Friday afternoon, referring to a parent meeting held Thursday evening at the 16244 13 Ave. school.

“The conversations will continue.”

Parent Derek Thornton – who first brought the matter to PAN’s attention – said Friday that he still felt the matter was “not handled very well by the school,” though he said Thursday’s meeting brought some relief.

“I feel comfortable/confident that another student will not be made to wear a jersey to cover up and that it sounds like any discussions regarding attire will be done with the parents and not during school/learning hours,” he told PAN via email.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Plane crashes into Nelson supermarket parking lot

Pilot and passenger have minor injuries

Phase three presents new opportunities for Kootenay tourism

Message from MLA Michelle Mungall and MLA Katrine Conroy

Castlegar seniors asked to share their COVID experiences

Research project looks for information to help improve life for local seniors

QUIZ: How much do you know about British Columbia?

On this B.C. Day long weekend, put your knowledge of our province to the test

VIDEO: Otter pups learn to swim at B.C. wildlife rescue facility

Watch Critter Care’s Nathan Wagstaffe help seven young otters go for their first dip

Michael Buble among 13 British Columbians to receive Order of B.C.

Ceremony will be delayed to 2021 due to COVID-19

U.S. border communities feel loss of Canadian tourists, shoppers and friends

Restrictions on non-essential travel across the Canada-U.S. border have been in place since March 2`

Rollout of COVID-19 Alert app faces criticism over accessibility

App requires users to have Apple or Android phones made in the last five years, and a relatively new operating system

Alleged impaired driver sparks small wildfire near Lytton after crash: B.C. RCMP

Good Samaritans prevented the blaze from getting out of control

B.C. First Nation adopts ‘digital twinning’ software to better manage territory

Software allows users to visualize what a mountain might look like if the trees on its slopes were logged

All inquiry recommendations implemented after fatal Port Hardy RCMP shooting: Ministry

The Independent Investigations Office of B.C. cleared the RCMP officers involved of wrongdoing

Leave your deets when dining: Restaurants taking personal info to trace COVID-19

Health officials say indoor dining presents a higher risk

Most Read