Student Dress Code Guidelines and Next Steps
HWDSB recognizes that we have a responsibility and obligation to provide learning environments that are safe, equitable, welcoming, and inclusive. Decisions about dress reflect individual expression of identity, socio-cultural norms, and economic factors and are personal and important factors to a person’s well-being and health. Students have a right to express themselves.
While the HWDSB Code of Conduct includes a reference that parents “help their child be neat, appropriately dressed and prepared for school” we don’t currently have a Student Dress Code. Recent events in schools have shown that in the absence of system direction, schools may have been enforcing an outdated dress code in a disproportionate manner that targets female-identified students without considering non-binary views and identities. This is a violation of the Human Rights Code.
Following the motion passed at the Board Meeting on October 18, 2021, HWDSB will develop student dress guidelines at the system level. Once updated, they will be shared with schools to publish in staff and student handbooks and on school websites. We will also provide professional learning at an upcoming Administrator Learning session about student dress codes and their historical and current impact.
School dress codes have been written and enforced in ways that disproportionately and negatively impact many students, including those who identify or present as female, those who are racialized, gender diverse, transgender, non-binary, students with disabilities, those who are socioeconomically marginalized and Indigenous, First Nation, Métis, and Inuit students. The new student dress guidelines will use the principles of anti-oppression, anti-racism, anti-colonialism, equity and inclusion.
1) Staff will remove any references to outdated dress codes that may exist on school websites, staff or student handbooks and agendas.
2) Staff will follow these interim general guidelines in a fair and consistent way:
- Students have the right to express themselves, feel comfortable in what they wear and the freedom to make dress choices (e.g., clothing, hairstyle, makeup, jewelry, fashion, style, etc.)
- Students have the responsibility to respect the rights of others, support a positive, safe and shared environment and to follow student dress guidelines
- Staff are responsible for ensuring that student dress doesn’t interfere with student and staff health or safety requirements (e.g., proper footwear in technological education) and/or promote or symbolize drugs, alcohol, illegal activity, hate or discrimination, profanity, pornography; that incites violence or harassment; or threatens health and safety
- Staff have the additional responsibility to support student health, well-being and safety and foster positive school climates while affirming and respecting student choices and freedom of expression.
- The Principal is responsible for day-to-day operations, implementation, and enforcement at the school level.
- Will wear a top and bottom layer of clothing of opaque material
- May wear tops that expose arms, shoulders, stomachs, midriff, neck lines, chest and straps but will cover the nipples
- May wear bottoms that expose legs, thighs and hips and expose straps and waistbands, but will cover the groin and buttocks
- May wear any headwear or head covering that does not obscure the face including but not limited to durags, ball caps, head scarves etc.
- May wear dress or headwear requirements to support religious/creed accommodations and similar human rights accommodations
- May not wear undergarments as outerwear
- May not wear anything that promotes or symbolizes drugs, alcohol, illegal activity, hate or discrimination, profanity, pornography; that incites violence or harassment; or threatens health and safety
- May not wear anything that depicts or displays hate speech targeting groups based on race, ethnicity, gender, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity, religious affiliation or any other protected groups
Staff will respond to student dress code violations in a consistent and fair way that:
- Is inclusive and non-gender specific, avoiding reinforcing gender and other stereotypes
- Works with the student 1:1 while respecting student privacy
- Treats the violation as minor and doesn’t interfere with the student’s access to their education and related activities unless it’s a violation under the Safe Schools Act.
- Ensures that students aren’t separated by binary gender for any discussion
- Ensures no student is negatively affected by dress code enforcement because of their identity and any grounds under the Ontario Human Rights Code
- Ensures students are not shamed or required to display their body in front of others (students, parents/guardians, or staff) in school
- Doesn’t remove a student from class time
- Offers a variety of choices to remedy any inappropriate dress such as asking the student to wear additional clothing of their own to obscure the inappropriate dress choice, to borrow additional clothing from a peer, to contact a family member to bring extra clothes, or to wear clothing provided by the school