British Columbia

Vancouver girls get green light to include pants in school dress code

A student-led initiative to make pants an option at an all-girls school was successful because the girls were thoughtful and organized, says school administrator.

Unusually cold winter prompted student to don pants - instead of kilt

Administrators at a Vancouver girls' school say they're proud of students for pushing for a change to the school's 85-year-old dress code that didn't allow for pants. (Speedkingz/Shutterstock)

Vancouver's bitterly cold winter prompted some serious change at a local girls school this year.

In January, Maren Gilbert Stewart, 15, made the bold decision to forgo the uniform kilt at York House School in Shaughnessy. Instead, she donned a pair of slacks.

"I knew what was happening and that I could definitely get in trouble and I could have gotten detention easily. However, I didn't," Gilbert Stewart told Stephen Quinn, host of CBC's On the Coast.

In fact, there was very little resistance from school administrators who have said they're proud of Gilbert Stewart, a Grade 10 student, and the other young women who rallied behind her to push for the shift.

 And starting in the fall, new pants options will be available to all girls.

Kimberly Harvey, director of the senior school at York House, said there have been discussions in the past within the student body about changing aspects of the uniform, but this one stood out to administrators for a few reasons.

"The girls were certainly more serious and more invested," Harvey said.

Assembly called

After Gilbert Stewart donned pants to school, an administrator asked her to switch back to the kilt. She went home and reached out to her peers for support.

The next day, school administrators estimated 10 to 15 girls showed up wearing slacks in solidarity and Gilbert Stewart submitted a four-point proposal on the issue to administration.

That's when the school decided to hold an assembly to discuss the issue.

At that meeting, students brought up a number of reasons they wanted to see pants become an option.

They argued the kilts didn't serve their needs in cold weather and made biking to school uncomfortable. They also argued that pants better suited the needs of non-binary gendered students.

"Two people from our school came forward and said that they didn't identify in the gender binary and that however much they liked wearing kilts, it just didn't sit right with them," said Gilbert Stewart.

No push back

Harvey said no one on the school's board wanted to get rid of the kilts, rather just add pants as an option.

"I think what's important here is that this has been a student-driven initiative and our entire community has been supportive of these young women who went for change," she said.

Students have been testing a number of pant styles throughout the spring, and picked one with a crease down the front, a pant Harvey called "very smart and very comfortable."

The girls will be able to place orders at the end of the month for the 2017-2018 school year.

With files from CBC Radio One's On the Coast