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AV High’s 21st Century Dress Code

Why have a dress code? That is what the majority of the students at Anderson Valley High School have been asking lately. Many students feel strongly about it. That it isn’t right or it’s downright unjust. But for the most part we understand the reasons a dress code is necessary, but we still prefer being able to wear what we want when we want.

The current dress code basically states: no saggy pants, no tank tops with sleeves less than an inch and a half, No gang related clothing, no shorts shorter than mid thigh. (“Fingertips” is what they use which is not consistent with “mid-thigh” — everyone has different length arms.) Skirts and dresses must be longer than mid-thigh.

Of course, the student handbook goes into more depth about the dress code.

Education Code Section 35181-35186 states “The adoption of a school wide uniform policy is a reasonable way to provide some protection for students. A required uniform may protect students from being associated with any particular gang. Moreover, by requiring schoolwide uniforms teachers and administrators may not need to occupy as much of their time learning the subtleties of gang regalia.”

As well as, “Many educators believe that school dress significantly influences pupil behavior.”

For those who do not know, this is the law for the state of Education in education. Dress code mostly refers to the safety of the students’ well-being and gang-related safety according to the code.

So why do we have a dress code?

Mrs. Hutchins, the Anderson Valley High school principal, says that “our dress code is more about safety. When a girl wears a short skirt and sits down it is physically her underwear touching the seat.” Mrs. Hutchins believes that it isn’t a matter of distraction in the classroom or self control for boys. It is about safety.

I understand why she would rather avoid talking about teen male lust, but hygiene seems like a stretch.

I interviewed a few kids on the subject. “Do you feel like the dress code is unjust? Do you believe the school should make a change? Is the dress code more unjust for boys or girls?” I was surprised by many of the answers, but mostly the answers were thoughtful.

The boys felt that the dress code didn’t apply to them, really, and not because the school is being sexist in maintaining one.

Will Lemons, a junior at the high school, answered, “I acknowledge the fact that it is harder for girls to follow the dress code, and they are more often in trouble. However, I have never seen a guy at school wear a skirt or shorts higher than mid-thigh.”

For the most part students, mostly girls, believe that the dress code is the way it is because boys are not able to control themselves when they see a girl’s leg or bra strap showing.

Girls of course think this is ridiculous.

“I feel that the dress code is unfair. I believe that the dress code promotes all sorts of prejudices against female students particularly. When a student is pulled out of class to go change, that student is getting pulled out of their education temporarily,” states Lexi Johnson, “The reason that schools claim to have a dress code is to promote a business environment and prepare students for careers. That is not just. Students can be taught respect in other aspects aside from how they dress. Dress codes also sexualize young girls. By saying that boys get distracted with girls wearing revealing clothes, is promoting sexual behavior among men.”

As you can see students feel very strongly about the dress code.

Tiernan Kobler, another junior, believes that the dress code is the way it is because “the school board thinks that people are going to get too distracted by someone wearing a tank top less than 1 inch or someone showing their legs.”

Is it the school’s job to teach self control to both females and males? Is it right for the school to feed into the distraction argument by telling a girl what to wear or not to wear?

As young adults preparing for college life and the work force, we should be aware of respectful and modest clothing that would be appropriate for our lives out of high school.

Students argue that they are mostly okay with the dress code, but some aspects of the dress code are unacceptable because of discrimination as to body type.

I see a girl wearing a short dress but it reaches her mid thigh. The same dress on myself would never pass. I have long legs, she has short legs.

We are both skinny, but because of the length of our legs, I would get in trouble with my long legs and she wouldn’t with her short legs.

The school's dress rules make girls self-conscious.

Alex Farber remarked, “As I am 5’10, shopping for dress code-appropriate clothing is a challenge. My legs are much longer than my torso, which often results in my dresses being ‘too-short’.”

Another student anonymously told me that because of the size of her breasts she can’t wear the same shirt as another girl with smaller breasts. Because everyone has a different body type what might seem appropriate for some students isn’t appropriate for others. This is unfair.

I did ask the question about having uniforms. I was surprised when some students told me that having uniforms would be okay. Lexi Johnson stated that having uniforms would prevent discrimination against body type. Everyone would be wearing the same thing so it would take away from competition in fashion, it would apply to everyone the same way, and it would help with costs.

Mrs. Hutchins agrees. Having school uniforms would actually benefit the school.

Obviously not everyone agrees with school uniforms. It takes away from students’ right to be unique and express themselves as they want to, but then again, school is for learning, not a fashion show.

Dress code shouldn’t be a big deal in a school. Students go to school to learn, not to show off their clothes or their bodies, even though school can seem like a fashion show at times. Having a dress code is understandable, but schools must make it fair for every student and have every teacher follow it.

This is another problem. Some teachers punish students for breaking the dress code while others don’t. One day, I wore a sweatshirt that was emblazoned with the Anderson Valley Brewery logo on it. I wore it to all three of my Tuesday classes. I did not get in trouble for wearing a beer ad. I wore it again on Wednesday to my other four classes.

By second period I got called on it. I had gone through four periods and never got in trouble. Mrs. Hutchins told me “I do believe that all staff should be consistent with enforcing our policies.”

Selective enforcement can also create resentment between the teachers and students who do not honor the dress code. The dress code will always be an issue at Anderson Valley High school. The students want a voice and it is important for them to get that opportunity.


  1. Harvey Reading July 29, 2015

    Dress codes have always been nothing more than an imposition of Christofascist, authoritarian mentality onto young people. Dress codes are NOT needed.

    In high school (’64-’68) the fascist vice principal was overwrought over shirts not tucked in and long hair. He followed in the footsteps of his predecessor, and fascist, mentor, who had a crew of “brown shirts” (cadet corps) who directed traffic to parking spots, unnecessarily, at night football games. Fortunately, both are dead now. Too bad they wasted their time on nonsensical bull like appearance and didn’t give a damn about academic excellence, since I left that prison knowing very little of what I was expected to know in college …

    Down with dress codes. Let the girls show some leg, while they’re still worth viewing.

  2. Diane Campbell July 29, 2015

    Always nice to read a considered and intelligent opinion such as Mr. Reading’s.

  3. Jeff Costello August 1, 2015

    1962, Farmington Connecticut. No pants of any type for girls and their skirts had to touch the floor when they kneeled. Always some willing male faculty member to enforce this. I was hounded for shirts not tucked in, and worse if they were bright colors. Friend of mine was forcibly taken to a barber during school hours by ape-like ex-military principal. Gym teacher ruled that if you can grab the hair on a boy’s head he was a “faggot.” Progress has been made.

  4. BB GRACE August 1, 2015

    I attended high school in Aiea Hawaii, which had a cultural heritage dress code. Every Friday is Aloha Day and everyone wears Aloha print. Many Pacific Islanders take the opportunity to show their native pride by wearing indigenous fashion, which was educational and interesting.

    Aloha Day is also known as “Kill Haole Day”. Since non Pacific Islanders don’t arrive on the Islands knowing about Aloha Day, many show up their first Friday to school sans aloha print. Not wearing Aloha translates into, “war”, and makes the opportunity for the toughest to use Haole blood to make aloha print on clothing.

    My first Friday, I had no idea it was Aloha Day. My Mom dressed me as if I attended Catholic high school; I think because if she had the money she would have sent me to a private school, like Punahou, which had a dress code, as do all the elite private schools.

    So I’m minding my own business, which is trying to figure out one building from the next, and this girl I’ve never seen before comes up to me and says, “Hey Haole! I hear you been callin’ me one whore eh?” And I said, “Whaaat?” To that she says, “You’ve been calling me a fucking whore, Bitch. You callin’ my friends ‘liars?” To which about 6 big mean looking girls with chip eating grins in their Aloha prints stood behind the girl accusing me of slandering her.

    “I don’t understand what you’re saying. I don’t you and I don’t know them”, I said, “I’m new here (duh) and looking for “C” building. Can you tell me where C building is?” The girl says, “I no going tell you where anyt’ing stay Bitch. I’m going to beat your ugly fucking haole ass out of this school and off this Island.”

    So I said, “I don’t know you, man. I don’t know what you’re talking about. We just moved here from California and I don’t have any beef with you.” So she tells me, “You stupid fucking haole, I got a beef with you. Everyone here has a beef with you. No one asked you to come here. We’re telling you get the fuck out of here. You no welcome. You go now, everything be peace. You go or I’m going to kick your fucking ass.”

    “Why do you want to be like that?” I asked. She said, “Because haoles came here and destroyed paradise, so haole need to leave. You need to leave. I give you one chance. You meet me in “A” ba’troom after school and we’ll talk, or I find you after school and kill your haole ass.” I revealed to her that, “I don’t know where “A” ba’troom is”. I believe that, “bat’room”, was my first pigeon English word. After school, I searched for and found “A” bat’room.

    It was an “L” shaped room with a stainless steel shelf below a mirror along the wall where the door was jammed, and the length contained three stalls, and three sinks opposite them with a window in the back. I put my books on the shelf. It was quite, the kind of quite before a storm. I decided to sit on the bookshelf (which would have been inappropriate anywhere else in my life, but I was in Hawaii now and Islanders appeared to have a sense of relaxation also known as Aloha style, which sitting on the bookshelf was acceptable. A couple of girls peeked in the bat’room door at me. They remind me of Star Wars Sand People. Within the next five minutes “A” bat’room was completely full, three girls to a stall standing on the rims overlooking the girls who lined the walls struggling with more girls pushing to get in. I’m pretty sure it was the Catholic girl look that got so many interested.

    So the girls come in and I’m trying to talk her out of a fight. Of course seeing it was a full house, there was absolutely no way there was not going to be a fight. She began slapping my knees and legs and told me to come down, which needed a little space for a landing, and what a landing! She had me from the start. I couldn’t make a fist. My hands felt like appendages with no nerves, they just flapped while this girl was beating my ass, and the others, like a hazing line up, took their shots hitting me with books and shoes while I was having a conversation with myself. I believe it was a WTF conversation. None of it made any sense to me. The entire day had been confusing, harsh, and now this, with limp wrists, I was going down under the last sink being kicked and stomped on. I said to myself, “Since they are kicking me then I can kick back.” I kicked back. One kick.

    At the time I had no idea what a solar plexus is, and that’s where I struck by luck. The girl went down. The room froze for a second. The girl was not moving. The other girls ran out. Teachers began running in. They attended the girl. They detained me in the same corner. They called an ambulance and the police. The girl left in the ambulance and I was walked up to the principal’s office where I waited until my Mom and the police arrived.

    I was accused of starting the fight because I was racist. My mother, struck in disbelief that I, who had been taught that only racists employ racism, everyone else sees people, not race, would do such a thing, as she protested, to which there was an agreement made that I was suspended for two weeks giving the girls family opportunity to press charges and if there was no charges, I could return.

    In some ways it was easier going through Aloha hazing then two weeks suspended at home. When I returned to school, the atmosphere was completely different to my shocking surprize. I experienced true Aloha and was greeted with a new name, “Killah”. I never did see the girl again, though I heard that she transferred to another school, and no charges were ever pressed against me and or my parents.

    Students had their own dress codes in Hawaii, surfers had hang ten and Gerry Lopez, long hairs had long hair and second hand clothes, hippies had crafty handmade clothes, nerds had buttons on their shirts, jocks had sweats and shorts with tees and tanks, students who had ambition dressed as if ambition was going to be at school that day, and every Friday everyone wore Aloha print, or else.

    Today there’s Aloha week, which has advanced notice. Here’s a vid that shows Aiea dress code in action to, “Movin’ Like Bernie”

  5. Jim Updegraff August 5, 2015

    Alameda High – 1944 – 1948. No more coats and ties Levis and shirts OK for the boys. Didn’t know what a tank top was. Girls shirts and blouses – modest length no one wore shorts – that was something British soldiers wore. Can’t recall anyone complaining about the dress code. Oh yes, we knew where babies came from but didn’t see any reason to flaunt our bodies.

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