Dress Code Controversy: “I Want To Wear What I Want”

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In recent weeks Mr. Brown, Mr. Jackson, and Ms. Bella have made it clear the dress code is going to be strictly enforced. 

Students at Lakota West High School have been voicing their opinions on the school dress code for years. This topic of conversation seems to be on everyone’s minds, as teachers and students butt heads over what is deemed “appropriate school wear.”  Now it is first and foremost on many students’ minds.  

Students were shown a video of Ms. Bella conveying what articles of clothing are considered school-appropriate during their advisory period. As expected, many students were enraged by this, calling the dress code “sexist” and “misogynistic.” Our female classmates are strongly voicing how the dress code affects them. One female student feels the dress code personally wrongs her: “If I were to wear a tank top I’d be asked to cover up; I feel sexualized.” It’s safe to say that the majority of students affected by the dress code are female.  

The discussion of dress code is typically not a subject matter our male students care about. One male student stated, “I feel like boys don’t really care about the dress code, how a girl dresses does not affect me.” Another male student expresses how he feels the dress code is “dumb.” 

Why is it that the boys don’t care? If you compare the guidelines of male and female dress codes the answer is clear. When looking at Lakota School Districts, Student Code of Conduct, guidelines under “Rule 1- Dress Code” it’s stated that “The Board believes that student dress should enhance a positive image of students and the District. The standards of dress and grooming outlined are necessary to promote discipline, maintain order, secure student safety, and provide a healthy environment that is conducive to learning. When a student is at school, participating in school activities or at school-sponsored events, his/her dress and grooming must not:

A. Present a health or safety hazard to the student or to others in the school or attending the school-sponsored activity; B. Materially interfere with school work, create disorder, or disrupt the educational environment; C. Cause excessive damage or wear-and-tear to school property; and/or D. Keep the student from participating safely in his/her own education.”

Keeping these guidelines in mind, how are cropped shirts and tank tops disruptive to the educational environment? How are these items of clothing affecting the education of the student wearing it and the students around him/her? Girls believe that they are asked to cover up to “protect” the males and take the blame off their inappropriate actions and lay it on the feet of the girls. That exact reason is why female students are fed up. “Why”, they argue, is it so normalized to control what the women of our school can and can not wear?  Why don’t schools instead teach the boys that women should not have to cover up NORMAL body parts due to boys’ wandering eyes that sexualize and harass females. 

The guidelines clearly state that a happy, safe school environment is wanted and these rules provide just that, so how is pulling a girl out of school because of what she is wearing not hindering their education? One student states that this fault in logic is “embarrassing” to the administration.  It needs to be taught that no matter what is worn, students and staff need to be respected. Respect for staff and students should also be enforced, no matter their gender. 

Conversations among our student body have stirred up about the school’s hypocrisy.  Recently, the varsity cheerleading team received new uniforms. Students have noted the new skirts are short and clearly do not follow the student dress code. It was called out that the school wants to control our women inside of the school but when it comes to the cheer team, suddenly, the guidelines are overlooked and seem to not matter. 

Looking at the bigger picture as to why students are so upset over dress code it has to do with self-expression. Many students express who they are by what they wear. We want to teach young students to feel comfortable with their bodies and to wear what makes them feel good. The dress code is teaching the exact opposite, enforcing students to cover up normal body parts. In a recent study done on teenagers ranging from ages 13-19 years old, 30% felt ashamed by their body image. Doesn’t the dress code tell girls their bodies are a problem?

It’s important to hear the student body’s opinion on the dress code. Our school prides itself on being a place where free expression and creativity are encouraged, but many feel as though this dress code hinders people’s ability to do that. As students, we feel that we should be allowed to wear what makes us comfortable and have the freedom of choice over our own image.