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Kamloops girl banned from wearing headscarves

Ten-year-old Jaime Mitchell is fond of wearing head scarves to her Kamloops, B.C. school, but the Lloyd George elementary dress code prohibits such attire, according to principal Alain Blais. Jaime’s mom, Erin Mitchell, believes her daughter has a right to wear the headscarves to class as a way of expressing herself.
Image Credit: THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrea Klassen
October 10, 2014 - 4:56 AM

KAMLOOPS - They're pretty and they serve a practical purpose — keeping her bangs out of her eyes.

But officials at Jamie Mitchell's school have told her that if she keeps coming to her Grade 3 class wearing a scarf, "she will no longer be welcome," her mother, Erin, said.

The 10-year-old said she’s worn hairbands in the past to deal with her long hair, but finds the scarves work better.

"I kinda like to wear them," she said.

Alain Blais, principal at Lloyd George elementary, where Jamie has attended since kindergarten has told the family the scarves violate the school’s dress code.

Blais acknowledged he had told Erin Mitchell that her daughter would be allowed to wear a scarf for religious reasons, referring her to the district's policy that says schools, when developing codes or policies, must address "the wearing of hats, hoodies or other headwear, other than for religious reasons."

The principal, new to the school after moving from Alberta, said his position comes from his belief that rules are rules, and it is respectful to remove hats or headwear when entering a building and that the policy avoids a double standard.

"I don’t like that we have to go 50 km/h in town, but that’s the rule," Blais said in an interview. "At some point, there’s no point arguing. I don’t understand the purpose of not following the rules."

Blais said the restriction is needed to deal with students who wear tuques or hoodies, zipped up "so they hide their faces and the teacher can’t see if the students are learning.

"I feel one of the things we are doing is preparing students to be in a workforce and you don’t wear headgear in the workforce," he said, noting the policy is also designed to address the wearing of gang colours.

Mitchell said her daughter wore scarves while in pre-school in Vancouver so her Muslim friend, who also wore a scarf, wouldn’t feel out of place. She sees it as her daughter’s right to express herself.

Blais, however, said he emailed principals at elementary schools in the city and, of those who replied, all agreed with his interpretation of the dress code.

Kamloops-Thompson School District assistant supt. John Churchley said all schools are required to have a dress code and must include provisions that respect the Charter of Rights and Freedoms as it relates to religious headgear.

Blais said all school policies will be reviewed in the coming year with input from the parent-advisory council — and he has told Mitchell she is welcome to join the committee.

"It will be whatever the staff and parents want," Blais said. "It’s their school. As an administrator, we never win. And, once a final decision is made, we have to all get onboard."

As for Jaime, she said the issue seems strange to her because the scarf doesn’t get in the way of her learning.

She said she doesn’t fidget with it — it just keeps her bangs off her face.

"I like wearing it," she said.

"And I'm getting 10 more of them."

News from © The Canadian Press, 2014
The Canadian Press

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