Dress Code: A School Divides: by Rebecca Ducret and Laura Nguyen

Dress code is one of the most controversial issues facing public schools today. Questions on whether or not the dress code is fair are floating around, as well as diverse opinions about the dress code being sexist. To test Memorial’s opinions on dress code, two groups of people were anonymously interviewed.

The first group of interviewees was made up of staff members at Memorial High School. Some said the dress code is necessary, stating, “since high school is to prepare students for life beyond these walls, I think a dress code is appropriate to have in high school.” Others disagreed, revealing that, “it is unfair to create a list of unacceptable clothing choices that are aimed at covering up ‘distracting’ parts of the body.” The rest of the staff expressed their varying thoughts, “I have mixed feelings about the dress code, some aspects are antiquated (hats and minor rips in jeans–who cares?), but the [ban on] short dresses/shorts/skirts is necessary to keep in the code due to issues of hygiene.” 

A handful of the teachers interviewed noted that the dress code was stricter back in their high school days. “Skirts had to be knee length, pants for girls weren’t allowed… Holes in clothes were unacceptable, shoulders also had to be covered.” When asked if their students follow the code, the majority of the staff said yes, excluding one teacher who believed, “most do not. [Look] at the holes in jeans and tank tops.”  

Although the student body may believe teachers are strict about the dress code, that is not the case. Over 85% of teachers interviewed said they rarely ever punish students for violating the dress code. One male teacher admitted that it is awkward to address females that are out of dress code. “I can’t remember [a] time I ever even told a female to remove a hat, let alone address her on being out of dress code.  Frankly, male teachers are not trained to address females on [the] dress code… It is a deficiency that in this day and age is embarrassingly and outrageously lacking. Our school has chosen not to properly prepare teachers for the more delicate matters.”

Nearly all of the teachers had something they would change about the dress code. “I’d get rid of the section that says kids cannot wear hats… As long as I can see a student’s face/eyes, I don’t think it should matter if they have a hat or hood pulled lightly over their heads. On the other hand, if you think we don’t notice when you use your hood to hide your AirPods, you’re dreaming.” One teacher stated that they thought uniforms were a good idea, while another stated that no holes should be allowed in any clothes (jeans, shirts, etc.). One teacher declared, “if I was to make any changes it would be to equalize the code for all students. Currently, it is slanted more for women to dress appropriately than the guys.” One teacher felt that the dress code should be thrown out completely, explaining that, “I don’t think a dress code is necessary.  We should eliminate it. If a student does something that raises concern, like wearing something that implies drug use, we should handle that by counseling the student.”

Some people argue that the dress code restricts a student’s freedom of expression. A staff member argued that, “you don’t have to wear a uniform. You can rep your favorite artists, brands, [and] teams. I mean, you can wear an animal tail if you want to. You just can’t wear anything that promotes sex, drugs, violence, or that might spread nasty germs around the school. Dye your hair. Pierce your face. Get a tattoo when you’re 18. Wear $300 Yeezys and walk like an ape because you don’t want to crease them and decrease the resale value, or be like everyone else and wear white Vans. Just don’t let yourself be under the impression that stopping you from wearing crop tops, tube tops, marijuana- or alcohol-related designs is ‘restricting your self-expression.’”

Each of the staff members’ interviews ended with the same question: Do you believe your students would get distracted if the school did not have a dress code? One staff member said that it would be distracting and spoke from past experience of distracting behaviors linked to a dress code violation. Another staff member expressed that a dress code violation is not going to distract the student because they are preoccupied with their phones. One teacher made their point loud and clear, “if you get distracted by a person’s shoulder or legs, do some self-evaluating.”

The second group of people interviewed were a random selection of Memorial’s own students. One student told us that he does think it is fair, “because most of it is just ‘don’t show an excessive amount of skin.’” Another student expressed that it is not fair because, “it makes it hard to express myself freely.” The majority of students, however, agreed that some aspects are fair and others are not. 50% of students interviewed said that they personally break the dress code and that their most frequent violations are ripped jeans and leggings.

The students were then asked a controversial question: Do you think the dress code is sexist? 68% said yes, “guys can wear what they want to wear and [people] don’t bat an eye, but as soon as a girl wants to wear a pair of jeans with minor rips they get dress coded.”

Where does Mr. Adamakos, Memorial’s principal, stand on this debate? When asked about his feelings towards the issue, he responded, “My feeling is [that] I have to enforce what the school district designs, I don’t have any feelings one way or another.” Principal Adamakos also brought up his past. “Well, people dress differently than when I was in high school. As opposed to now, they were far more respectful of their surroundings and considered school to be a formal institutional place much like it would be if you were going to work… not as casual as it is now.”

Additionally, Adamakos revealed that most Memorial students do follow the code, and that he personally punishes those who don’t 2-3 times a day. Moreover, Memorial’s principal described the student dress code as “consistent with the mission and vision of the school district” and expressed that it prevents distraction towards students. “When people dress provocatively, or the way which presents them in a different light than they want to be, it’s going to interfere with their education.” 

As for whether or not he supports the student dress code, Principal Adamakos granted an insightful response, “I think that every student is an ambassador of their family, their cultures, their traditions, and everything else. So the way you dress says volume about who you are, the respect you have for other people, and the way you want to represent your family. So if people understand that, maybe they’d think about it in another way.”

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