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)

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

Rick Morgan, Nanaimo Search and Rescue building director, and Carly Trobridge, president and search manager, turn sod to kick off the start of renovations to NSAR’s headquarters Tuesday, Jan. 26. (Chris Bush/News Bulletin)
Nanaimo Search and Rescue getting started on $2.6-million makeover at Harewood headquarters

Renovation project will increase space for vehicles and improve training and management operations

Island Health chief medical officer Dr. Richard Stanwick receives a first dose of Pfizer vaccine, Dec. 22, 2020. (B.C. government)
COVID-19: Vancouver Island in a January spike while B.C. cases decrease

Island’s top doc Dr. Stanwick breaks down the Island’s rising numbers

A downed power line has sparked a brush fire along Yellow Point Road south of Nanaimo. (Cole Schisler/Black Press)
Downed hydro line sparks brush fire in Yellow Point

North Oyster firefighters and B.C. Hydro on scene along Yellow Point Road

A concrete seawall built to prevent erosion on a property on Driftwood Drive on Mudge Island. (Islands Trust image)
Appeal Court says Mudge Island homeowners’ seawall has to go

Court decides right to guard against erosion isn’t a ‘privileged’ property right

McDonald’s on Nicol Street in Nanaimo. (News Bulletin file photo)
McDonald’s in Nanaimo reports COVID-19 case

Employee at Nicol Street location last worked Jan. 17

Dr. Penny Ballem, a former deputy health minister, discusses her role in leading B.C.’s COVID-19 vaccination program, at the B.C. legislature, Jan. 22, 2021. (B.C. government)
B.C. holds steady with 407 new COVID-19 cases Tuesday

14 deaths, no new outbreaks in the health care system

Shown is Quality Foods at 319 Island Highway in Parksville. The Island-based grocery chain announced on Jan. 25 it made a $2-per-hour pay premium, implemented during the COVID-19 pandemic, permanent. (Mandy Moraes photo)
COVID-19: Quality Foods makes $2-per-hour employee pay premium permanent

Island-based grocery chain had extended increase twice in 2020

A Cessna 170 airplane similar to the one pictured above is reported to be missing off the waters between Victoria and Washington State. Twitter photo/USCG
Canadian, American rescue crews searching for missing aircraft in waters near Victoria

The search is centered around the waters northeast of Port Angeles

The North Cowichan/Duncan RCMP have arrested a prolific offender who is now facing more than 40 charges. (Black Press file photo)
‘Priority offender’ arrested in Cowichan Valley faces more than 40 charges

Tyler Elrix, 37, had a history of evading police; was ordered not to be in Vancouver Island

B.C. Premier John Horgan listens during a postelection news conference in Vancouver on Sunday, Oct. 25, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
30% of B.C. recovery benefit applications held up in manual review

The province says 150 staff have been reassigned to help with manually reviewing applications

Emergency crews were called to a three-vehicle crash Monday morning on the old Island Highway close to Rock City Road. (Greg Sakaki/News Bulletin)
Car, pickup and semi truck crash along the highway in Nanaimo

Incident happened in front of Rock City Plaza on Monday morning

Jonathon Muzychka and Dean Reber are wanted on Canada-wide warrants. (Courtesy of Victoria Police Department)
Convicted killer, robber at large after failing to return to facility: Victoria police

Dean Reber, 60, and Jonathon Muzychka, 43, may be together

A woman wearing a protective face mask to curb the spread of COVID-19 walks past a mural in Victoria, B.C., on Monday, Dec. 7, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Marissa Tiel
5 big lessons experts say Canada should learn from COVID-19

‘What should be done to reduce the harms the next time a virus arises?’ Disease control experts answer

Most Read