Too Much Skin for Social Studies

Too Much Skin for Social Studies

Erin Bryant, Staff Writer

Students walking through Wellington High School see many styles and types of dress, but there is usually a limit on what is “acceptable” for the schoolhouse. Dress codes exist among the vast majority of public schools and, recently, they have been under attack by some who have described them as sexist and unfair.

Phrases such as “Boys will be boys” and “Modesty is hottest” are common when one attempts to justify dress codes. These ordinary expressions have been scrutinized by many and have been seen as supporting a rape culture. Many say that dress code is telling girls that they are responsible for the attention and education of boys, rather than teaching boys self-control. Some question whether administrators are teaching girls that they should be ashamed for displaying more than four inches of skin above the knee.

“This kind of message lands itself squarely on a continuum that blames girls and women for assault by men. It also sends the message to boys that their behaviors are excusable, or understandable given what the girls are wearing,” wrote Kevin and Juliet Bond, two parents outraged by the condemnation of leggings at Haven Middle School in Evanston, Illinois.

Many students at Wellington frown upon the practice.

“Honestly, I feel dress code is redundant. If people are distracted by the way that others dress they should just learn how to control themselves rather than forcing other people to dress a different way. There should be limitations, but the ones set in place are too strict,” Antonio Perrella, sophomore, said.

The majority of dress code violators at Wellington High appear to be girls.

“Girls are given dress code far more often than boys, and when these boys are given dress code it is for pant-sagging or inappropriate symbols on clothing. Girls are given violations for see-through shirts, holes in jeans, unsuitable language displayed, and short skirts and pants,” Mrs. Martelli of Student Services said.

This trend is not exclusive to Wellington either.

The Menlo-Atherton High School Feminism Club in California conducted a survey containing 118 females and 111 males. Sixty-four percent of the girls reported that they had been called out for dress code comparing to a mere twelve percent of the boys.

One of the reasons schools give for having a dress code is to prepare students for the working world.

“It is important for everyone to dress for success and to dress appropriately for school because we [the faculty] are preparing you for college as well as a future occupation. It is important for people to dress right, without distracting others,” said Mrs. Forgash, Wellington High School Assistant Principal.

But some question if that philosophy may interfere with learning.

Tallie Doyle, a fourteen-year-old student at Fisher Park Public School in Ottawa, Canada, explained, “They [the teachers]  told me that school is a workplace, but they didn’t let me work and they took me out of class for twenty-five minutes.”

In the Student Services office at Wellington High School students can wait a lengthy period until a parent is able to drop off “suitable” clothing.

“I missed all of my first period English class because my shoulders were visible,” recounted Jazmin Alvarez, a student in the Wellington High Pre-Veterinary Academy.

Dress codes are certainly a topic of controversy. While the importance of dressing appropriately for school is clear, the recent upheaval suggests the practice may be selective, places too much onus on girls and may distract from learning time. Perhaps outrage from parents and students alike will spark a change, but, in the meantime, remember to watch those few inches above the knee.