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

Defenceman Cullen Ferguson had a goal and an assist as the Caps took the Nanaimo Clippers into a shootout last Friday, one of three games in four days for the busy Cowichan Valley Capitals. (Citizen file)
Busy Cowichan Capitals get a look at newcomers

Caps play three games in four nights before two-week break

Items seized over four days of targeted vehicle checks Nanaimo and Victoria by members of the Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit of B.C. (CFSEU-BC photo)
Gang enforcement team seizes drugs and weapons in Victoria and Nanaimo

Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit of B.C. checked 33 vehicles over four days

Cowichan Search and Rescue set up near the Silver Bridge in Duncan on Wednesday morning, Oct. 28, 2020 to rescue a dog from the Cowichan River. (Citizen file)
North Cowichan/Duncan RCMP are looking for help from the public to identify the driver of a vehicle after a hit and run in Duncan on Oct. 22, 2020. (File photo)
North Cowichan/Duncan RCMP looking for driver after man hit in crosswalk

The hit and run is reported to have taken place on Thursday, Oct. 22

Sites are being considered for a new pipe that will see treated effluent from the Joint Utilities Board’s sewage treatment plant near Duncan diverted away from the Cowichan River and Cowichan estuary (pictured) to an outflow site in Satellite Channel. (File photo)
Possible routes identified for new Cowichan sewage pipe

Public input will be sought in decision

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry updates the COVID-19 situation, B.C. legislature, Oct. 26, 2020. (B.C. government)
B.C.’s COVID-19 case count jumps by 287, another senior home outbreak

Two more deaths recorded, community outbreak in Okanagan

Janet Austin, lieutenant governor of B.C., was presented with the first poppy of the Royal Canadian Legion’s 2020 Poppy Campaign on Wednesday. (Kendra Crighton/News Staff)
PHOTOS: B.C. Lieutenant Governor receives first poppy to kick off 2020 campaign

Janet Austin ‘honour and a privileged’ to receive the poppy

Premier-elect John Horgan and cabinet ministers are sworn in for the first time at Government House in Victoria, July 18, 2017. (Arnold Lim/Black Press)
Pandemic payments have to wait for B.C. vote count, swearing-in

Small businesses advised to apply even if they don’t qualify

The Calgary Zoo is aiding in recovery efforts for the Vancouver Island marmot, an endangered species. Pictured here, a marmot at Mount Washington. (Black Press file)
Despite challenges, 2020 good year for Vancouver Island marmot population

In 2019, the foundation counted 60 pups; this year, it reached 46

A raccoon paid a visit to a Toronto Tim Hortons on Oct. 22, 2020. (shecallsmedrew/Twitter)
Who are you calling a trash panda? Raccoon takes a shift at Toronto Tim Hortons

Tim Hortons said animal control was called as soon they saw the surprise visitor

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

The duffel bags were found to contain 84 pounds of cocaine, valued at approximately $1.2 million and 198 pounds of methamphetamine, valued at approximately $960,000. Photo courtesy U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
2 men accused of fleeing border agents near U.S.-B.C. border with $2M in drugs

Cocaine and methamphetamine seized by U.S. law enforcement in remote Idaho area near Canadian border

Pixabay photo
‘Horrific’ abuse of volunteers, staff by parents must stop: Chilliwack soccer club

Parents have become abusive after being told COVID-19 rules, email says

FILE – The Queen of Alberni ferry leaves the Tsawwassen Ferry Terminal in Delta bound for Vancouver Island, Sunday, July 29, 2007. (CP PHOTO/Richard Lam) CANADA
Mechanical failure leaves nearly 200 passengers stranded on BC Ferries ship for hours

A tug arrived after dark to safely nudge the vessel into a berth so travellers could finally disembark

Most Read