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?