The Hamilton Spectator

Public board to clarify student dress rules

Campaign is a response to complaints


Regarding headwear, the poster notes students can wear hats, durags, bandanas, head scarves and religious/ creed headwear

Hamilton’s public school board says it plans to promote student dress guidelines with a poster campaign, web page, staff training and possible video to combat discrimina­tion against religious or cultural clothing.

Equity superinten­dent Paul Denomme said the board has already issued a clarificat­ion of the 2021 guidelines to school staff in response to a December trustee motion seeking to address complaints about anti-Palestinia­n racism.

Staff will also receive training to ensure dress guidelines “are not used as a tool of discipline but a tool of conversati­on around what is appropriat­e to wear,” he told trustees at their Monday board meeting.

Trustees directed senior staff in December to remind schools of the guidelines after hearing some students were threatened with discipline for supporting Palestinia­ns under siege in Gaza, including by wearing the kaffiyeh, a symbol of Palestinia­n culture.

Denomme said a poster developed with student input will be distribute­d to all schools in September and include examples of permitted clothing because many found references to “opaque material” and other language in the guidelines unclear.

Regarding headwear, the poster notes students can wear hats, durags, bandanas, head scarves and religious/creed headwear, with examples including burqas, hijabs, turbans, kippahs, yarmulkes, niqabs, fezzes, kaffiyehs and ball caps.

As with all clothing, the guidelines state that headwear cannot promote drugs, alcohol, hate, discrimina­tion, profanity, illegal activity, pornograph­y or violence.

Student trustee Thomas Lin, who got unanimous support for a Dec. 4 motion on the dress guidelines and staff training on Islamophob­ia, antisemiti­sm and anti-Palestinia­n racism, praised the poster.

“I certainly think that compared to what we had before on our website that this visual guideline is a big step ahead in terms of how it looks, in terms of its clarity, as well as its inclusivit­y for various religions, cultures and practices,” he said.

“I’m excited to see how this guideline will be actually implemente­d and enforced inside of our schools. I certainly hope that what was intended in this guideline can be carried out in our high schools and elementary schools.”

The 2021 guidelines stem from a review to remove “sexist and outdated standards,” prompted by protests at Waterdown District High School after students were warned by their principal to not expose shoulders and midriffs.

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