ARHS Dress Code controversy

It seems that every generation of high school students needs to have its controversy. The tempest this year at Algonquin Regional High School is over a “revised” school dress code.

But perhaps it’s not the revision that is really causing conflict. It’s the new level of enforcement for a policy that was already there.

I’ve been hearing rumblings and seeing tweets about discord over the new school dress code since school began. But it’s just last week that the issue was covered by the school’s newspaper The Harbinger.

The story focuses on a purported change to the school policy. In August, Principal Tom Meade sent an email to parents with a revised school dress code.

Since then, students have expressed anger over the following language:

Clothing that is too revealing (e.g., clothing that exposes underpants, the midriff, and cleavage) is inappropriate in a school setting.

The presumption of the paper and griping students has seemed to be that the definition of revealing clothing has changed. Meanwhile, the truth lies in the story’s quote from Principal Tom Meade:

 “It’s being enforced a little bit more frequently and it’s being mentioned at school meetings because we want students to be aware of it,” Mead said.

As a mom, I heard from other mothers in the past their distress at how female students dressed at Algonquin. I even heard through the grapevine that there was a defacto school uniform of revealing clothing and high heels. (Perhaps my memory is fuzzy, but this strikes me as a big change from my days there, eons ago.)

Now, through social media, I’m hearing another side of the story. The Harbinger tweeted a picture of a flyer in September that argued “MY SHOULDERS ARE NOT SEX ORGANS. IF YOU’RE “DISTRACTED” BY MY ANATOMY  GROW UP!

Another flyer pic included:

Don’t stop girls from wearing shorts, skirts, tank tops, or strapless shirts in hot weather. Instead teach male faculty and students not to over-sexualize female body parts. . .

Dress code only enforces the idea that girls should cover up because “boys will be boys”.

The Harbinger’s article includes Meade’s justification for enforcing the code:

Principal Tom Mead explained that a revised and more enforced dress code is an attempt to “try to prepare our students to go into the big world.”

“I think part of it is that we have to strike a balance with freedom of dress,” Mead said.

Interestingly, a comment stream from last year on the way ARHS students dress indicates that the dress code didn’t change in quite the way students think. (At least not this year.)

In September 2013, a commenter posted the ARHS Dress code policy. A comparison to the code issued this fall shows that the only change is insertion of the word “discriminitory” (bolded below):

We encourage our students to express their individuality by the clothing they wear, as long as it does not offend or distract the life of the school and the educational process.

We take pride in the appearance of all Algonquin High School students. All students are expected to dress and groom themselves appropriately. Designs on clothing, which display poor taste, advocate drugs, alcohol or sex, and express vulgarities and/or ethnic/discriminatory slurs will not be tolerated. Any style of dress that is considered disruptive to school activities is prohibited. Parents are responsible for discussing with their children the kind and type of clothing that is considered appropriate to wear in a school setting. Clothing that is too revealing (e.g., clothing that exposes underpants, the midriff, and cleavage) is inappropriate in a school setting. Students will use good judgment regarding appropriate attire in school. Bare feet are not allowed for the obvious reasons of safety and hygiene. Students will be required to correct the situation upon the request of any staff member. Refusal to comply with the request may result in disciplinary action including suspension.

I’m guessing the shift into cold weather will cause the controversy to die down for a while. But it’s likely spring back up when the weather turns warmer.

So, how do you feel about the dress code and it’s renewed enforcement?

Is this a freedom of expression issue?

Is the policy discriminatory? (That would be ironic.)

Or is revealing clothing inappropriate for school?

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9 years ago

This is not a freedom of expression issue in my mind. There are approriate ways to express yourself and there are inappropriate ways to express yourself. Wearing revealing clothing in an academic setting is not appropriate.
The policy is not discriminatory. It can appear so since girl’s clothing is made to be more revealing but if a boy is wearing his pants/shorts so low that you can see his underwear, then the policy applies to him too.
This policy needs to be enforced at all levels, not just at the high school level. My son has seen girls’ underwear and butt cheek from fellow female students as young as 4th grade. By the time they get to high school. it should be well ingrained that even though they are older, it is still not appropriate attire for school.
The real world has rules, and whether or not you like them, you need to comply or there will be consequences. Sorry kids, you are not entitled to wear whatever you want when you are in the jurisdiction of school.

9 years ago

I think ARHS does a service to students in enforcing dress code, unfortunately, it will be all lost when they go to college, as we know there won’t be on there. Bottom line, when you get into the working world there are dress codes and they are more strict than not being able to expose your undergarments or your mid section. Try no jeans, no exposed tattoos, no sandals etc. That’s life. Express yourself on your own time, but sometimes in life we go places where there are rules and school should be one of those places.

Former ARHS Student
9 years ago

As a former Algonquin student it angers me to know that mysogyny still exists in the hall ways of such a great place. While I agree that you should not be wearing shorts that clothing which truly shows sexual organs is inappropriate for school, the idea that sexualizing girls’ shoulders, arms, stomachs, and legs has got to stop. No you should not be wearing a skirt that is so short I can see your private parts but if you’re wearing a tank top and I see your bra strap who cares? It’s a piece of fabric. It’s time to stop sexualizing young girls’ body parts and taking away from their education, because when you tell a girl to leave class and change into “decent clothing” you’re telling her that her body is more important than her intellectuality.

Dean Dairy
9 years ago

The obligatory feminist male demonization aside, isn’t it primarily females who actually register complaints about the revealing way other females are dressed?

Dick Snyder
9 years ago

I volunteer at a high school in Dorchester. We have the same policy. If students (mostly girls) ignore the policy they are sent home to change their clothes or they are given something that is temporary to wear. The problem of course is biggest when the weather is warm

Father of young ladies
9 years ago

FORMER ARHS STUDENT, I think you have your by-line misinterpreted. Sexualizing girls is a huge problem and has been getting worse for 100 years. Just walk the streets of Bangkok, Bangladesh or Singapore (where boys that men buy are just as prevalent. Where does it stop? I think a dress code is good and your dress code is too liberal. Your body should be completely covered (not in a burqa) . I think the dress code should be the same as in the work place, after all you will hopefully be there one day. We have had to over the years eliminate perfume from the office because some do not know enough discretion and know how to apply perfume in a decent way. I think you should grow up and stop imposing your beliefs of indecency on us and our children, our young girls and ladies (Moms, it starts with you not letting your little girls dress like that are a teen when they are 10 ie. Trottier Middle School email 9-10-14). It causes problems in every home where girls actually take clothes off in the bathroom when they get to school so they can show as much cleavages, leg and shoulders as so many of the girls. I think when your so called spandex nylons reveal your skin and underside and pubic bones there is a huge problem. And FORMER ARHS STUDENT, it starts by reveal in cleavage and shoulders in public with normal men who are very attracted to the female sex. You say control yourself, I agree. But the code is both ways my dear, please control yourself and your anger that comes through in your words. I reveals who you are.

9 years ago

Father of young ladies;
I admit to being intrigued. I haven’t heard of these “so called spandex nylons,” and I do have a 21 year old daughter, so I’ve seen fashion fads come and go. Do you have a link you could share?
I’ve never had a problem with either a dress code, or the clothes my daughter has chosen to wear to school.

Former T-Hawk
9 years ago

I know we don’t want to admit it because maybe we have been victims of it, but our society is obsessed with sex. The media? movies? magazines? social media (i.e. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram)? Look around, it’s everywhere. I’m not saying that given this reality this allows females a “pass” to get away with such dress in schools or in public for that matter. But, this needs to be taken into account. Because, being another former student, I’d say there’s much truth to the previous post of a fellow t-hawk. I’m sure they can attest to this as well, in middle school? Us females were the ones scolded in the cafeteria about our dress, and it’s evident that this same stance stands in high school as girls feel the need to draft posters to point out the obvious concern here, the males view of females. They’re manipulated by society too, don’t get me wrong, but that needs to be addressed as well. Rather, both males and females need to be educated about what they can do instead. If there’s no alternative, do you really think they’re going to find one? They’re going to dress the way they want anyway, but maybe if there was some positive light displayed through all of this, it wouldn’t be such as much of a problem.

Although this won’t be solved easily, there’s steps that can be taken in the right direction. Society is a big problem when it comes down to such discussions as these. Yes, this was a problem when I went through my four years at Algonquin, but I’m glad that it’s come to the point where girls are speaking up about it. They’re right; their stomachs, legs, and shoulders aren’t sexual…society has made them to be that way. And, unfortunately, we’re all surrounded by it so it does play a role in male’s views of them (not saying that’s the way it should be, just saying how it is).

It goes far beyond parents not letting their children wear such things because, lets be honest, everybody wants what they can’t have or can’t do, so they’ll do it anyway. Why not start a conversation? Maybe asking them why they want to wear such clothes? Where did they see others wearing it?

This isn’t a black and white thing and it shouldn’t be taken in such a way, such as more and regulations being added to the dress code. I applaud those who have spoken up for themselves, and hope they continue to do so because how else will anything change?

Al Hamilton
9 years ago

There is a lot to be said for School Uniforms. We wont do it but a whole bunch of these issues get better managed with them.

9 years ago

The current language as written should be evaluated. Regardless of the rationale, the language is currently targeting those who identify themselves as female. The same can be said if the policy suggested that pants most cover boxers (for example). Therein, this “gendered” language is, in fact, dangerously close to a Title IX violation.

If the school system plans to put into place any type of clothing policy, the language in it needs to be inclusive of all gender identities. Don’t focus on specific items, focus instead on specific tenants (e.g., no exposed shoulders.)

John Kendall
9 years ago

I think Algonquin needs a strong dress code. When I attended there, the girls and boys had a code to follow, and it was adhered to. I’m not that old, but I’m old fashioned. The way some of these kids dress today for school, church, the mall…….it’s not right.

Al Hamilton
9 years ago
Reply to  John Kendall


I am an old fart like you. I don’t enjoy looking at the back end of some kids boxers etc.

But… Kids have been doing stuff to tick off their elders since the beginning of time. If they don’t do it one way they will do it some other way.

John Kendall
9 years ago
Reply to  Al Hamilton

Just like we did……..where’s my tie dyed t-shirt?

9 years ago

Al; I grew up in Ireland, went to an all-girls secondary school – the Convent of Mercy in Galway around 40 years ago. We had uniforms, and I can attest that students spent lots of time and imagination finding ways to be non-compliant in (hopefully) unobtrusive ways. This just isn’t new. These kids are doing what we did as youngsters – bucking authority.

By the way, I did ask my son, a senior at Algonquin, his thoughts on this topic. In his view, it’s a non-issue. He doesn’t see that it matters what people wear, and has never lost focus because of somebody’s attire.

Frank Crowell
9 years ago

How about this for a dress code: If your grandmother would blush, then don’t wear it to school. It may not pass the PC test, but it would work for most. Of course if your grandmother came of age in the 60’s all bets are off.

9 years ago

The tights one comment referred to are the leggings girls are wearing as pants. Leggings were meant to be worn as tights, with a long top to cover the front and back end of our girls. The girls now wear them as pants, using a thong so that no panty lines are visible. This is wrong and should not be allowed in our academic settings. I have both daughters and one son. The girls are revealing every part of themselves and leaving nothing covered. I work so hard to have my girls care about themselves as people and not as sex objects, but I feel like we have returned to the days of old–and ironically enough, who causes the disrespect of the female body? Females. Please help us moms keep our daughters appropriate by enforcing the dress code at the middle and high schools.

9 years ago
Reply to  karen

Karen, do you actually live in this area, or are you just following this issue from afar? I find it interesting that you feel that “leggings were meant to be worn as tights, with a long top to cover the front and back end of our girls.” Is/was this a rule? I’m picturing legging police roving the streets confronting scofflaws. I seem to recall lots of spandex way back in the 80’s (Olivia Newton John, anyone?), with nary a long top in sight to cover fronts and backs. I don’t know where you pass your time, but I don’t see girls “revealing every part of themselves” in my everyday life. I realize people have different thresholds, but I have to say that this post comes across a little sanctimonious to me. With regard to your “I work so hard….” sentence, I’m confused. You appear to be saying that we’ve returned to the “days of old” (isn’t this a good thing, from your perspective?), but then state that girls disrespect themselves. Evidence & clarification, please. Thanks.

Finally, my view is that tights are tights (sheerish on top, usually), and leggings are form-fitting pants. If you ever see someone wearing tights as leggings, believe me, you’ll know it. I’m remembering an incident in my workplace. The “offender” was in her 60’s…

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