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.