A Maple Ridge family is angry that their school principal has the authority to ban their son’s skater clothes from school.
Gerry Paolino said he’s not sending his son Marcello to Blue Mountain elementary with pot leaves on his clothes, or something similarly inappropriate, just a sweatshirt with the initials DGK.
But school principal Mike Scarcella has the authority to set out what he considers appropriate dress, and among his rules, he doesn’t allow DGK – “Dirty Ghetto Kids” – at Blue Mountain.
“I assume most kids don’t even know what DGK stands for, and don’t know what it means,” said Paolino.
He doesn’t like that his son is being called to the office, being threatened with being sent home, and having to turn his clothes inside out, because of the principal’s preference. His son Marcello is in Grade 7 and stays out of trouble.
“Last I checked, this wasn’t a private school. This is a public school, and we have freedom of expression.
“This is Canada, man.”
He complained to the school district office, and found that the principal is supported by district staff, and given the authority to set standards of dress at his school.
So, if a principal found religious symbols problematic, he could ban them, asks Paolino.
What seems most arbitrary to Gerry is that his son’s clothing was not an issue under the past principal.
“It was never a problem before.”
According to school district spokesperson Irena Pochop, the boy had originally come in wearing a Dirty Ghetto Kids T-shirt with a “Scumbag” logo.
Part of the school’s code of conduct includes a dress code stipulating that “shirts should not contain logos or advertising pertaining to drugs or alcohol, nor demeaning/inappropriate comments that may be construed as offensive to any member of the school community.”
Several members of the school, students and staff, were upset by the message and brought it to the principal’s attention. The principal enforced the school’s code of conduct by asking the boy to stop wearing that brand of T-shirt to school.
“The Dirty Ghetto Kids brand itself is pro-drugs and pro-alcohol, which is not the kind of messaging we want to see in any of our schools, let alone an elementary school,” said Pochop.
Marcello subsequently came in wearing a Dirty Ghetto Kids T-shirt that didn’t include the Scumbag logo. By then the school community already understood the underlying message the shirt and the brand conveyed, said Pochop.
“It is the principal’s responsibility, under the School Act, to ensure students understand and comply with a school’s code of conduct,” said Pochop. “Such codes are in place to maintain a safe, respectful and caring environment for student learning, and are developed with the safety and well-being of the school community in mind. In this case, the student’s clothing violated the school’s code of conduct, was inappropriate, and upset some members of the school community.”
She said the school principal has tried to be as flexible about this as possible while still honouring the school’s code. He has let the boy know he is free to wear the shirt to school in the morning, change into a different shirt for classes, or cover it, then put it on again for his journey home.