ROTHENBURGER – School dress codes are needed but they’re hard to get right

Students protest at NorKam. (Image: CFJC TV)

NOTHING LIKE A DRESS CODE to make for a good controversy, especially if it’s got to do with schools.

As the Kamloops-Thompson School District mulls over changes to its dress code, media across the country are having a field day with an incident involving a NorKam secondary student.

These hot potatoes pop up every once in a while — someone gets offended over a dress code, students organize a protest and the media love it.

The student in this one is Karis Wilson, who has articulately been making her case against the application of the dress code that resulted in her being told to either change her outfit or go home for the day. She went home.

The school’s decision incensed her dad, Chris Wilson, who took to social media (which is what we do these days). And who can blame Mr. Wilson for defending his child? He points out that Karis was wearing a black knee-length spaghetti-strap dress over a white turtle neck. It has lace edgings.


Mel Rothenburger is a former mayor of Kamloops and a retired newspaper editor. He is a regular contributor to CFJC Today, publishes the opinion website, and is a director on the Thompson-Nicola Regional District board. He can be reached at

About Mel Rothenburger (8896 Articles) is a forum about Kamloops and the world. It has more than one million views. Mel Rothenburger is the former Editor of The Daily News in Kamloops, B.C. (retiring in 2012), and past mayor of Kamloops (1999-2005). At he is the publisher, editor, news editor, city editor, reporter, webmaster, and just about anything else you can think of. He is grateful for the contributions of several local columnists. This blog doesn't require a subscription but gratefully accepts donations to help defray costs.

4 Comments on ROTHENBURGER – School dress codes are needed but they’re hard to get right

  1. Years ago at NorKam Secondary School, a nonconformist grade twelve student in my English 12 class and I discussed this topic of clothing expectations in depth. We agreed to change clothing for a day, appearing the following Monday in class in each others’ standard garb – he in a suit, shirt and tie I would loan him, (with the knot pre-tied), and I in tattered, knees-out faded jeans which he would provide, and a worn, grubby mackinaw of my own which was my usual wood-chopping garb, and on a par with his daily uniform. On the scheduled day, he was absent, and his mother phoned to tell me had decided he didn’t have the courage to follow through. He was absent for several days, and the topic never rose again. Clothing is often described as an indicator and, possibly, a measure, of the wearer’s security, or self-concept. It can also be a sham, an appeal, or a facade. Being multi-faceted is not all bad. We all have a bit of Walter Mitty in us. I wore a suit and tie, as Vice Principal, but my Doctor wears a golf shirt, and is every bit as professional. So, I respect both diversity and comfort, and reject the notion that kids should meet some “business-like” dress code. School is for learning and growing, which involve risk and growth and discovery. And conformity tends to inhibit those things. Business is for business, schools are for learning, exploring and discovering – even , and particularly – the self. Avoid conforming until you find where you fit. Kids have to learn what is offensive; it seldom proclaims itself. Industry contributes more to the school budget than does business, but we don’t ask kids to dress in overalls. Pierce Graham.

  2. I went to high school on the Prairies. The big discussion one particular brutal January was whether-or-not to allow the girls to wear pants to school. After the powers-to-be decided pants trumped frostbite, the next burning issue was would they have to change back to skirts once they got to school.

    Fashion is evolution on steroids. Trying to stay ahead of it is impossible. Let the kids wear what they want and save yourself the headache.

  3. Make it simple…implement a burka.

  4. This is utterly ridiculous how kids speak back today, no respect anymore and they are not happy unless they are dressing like Madonna and Brittney Spears which is where they learn this fashion from and those are not exactly proper role models for impressionable young girls. The sad part is the parents should no better and aren’t teaching their kids right from wrong and passing down morals and ethics. I get that women have been oppressed and all the other excuses I have read as to why people support this girl but don’t forget it wasn’t long ago women wore those exact same patterns as slips and if they truly did not know this was an undergarment or aren’t the age to have seen a Sears catalogue then even more reason why they should be listening to their teachers, abiding and not protesting. When I was young the kids who did this mischief were the ones who later turned out horribly. I am afraid for our future with these kids and their attitudes. The proper response would have been I am sorry and not do it again but you can’t even correct someone today without back lash.

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