Why our dress code is unfair

Students protest their dress code in Turkey.

Students protest their dress code in Turkey.

by Kobie Tsiang, Staff Writer

The modern day dress code in schools comes in many different forms. In some schools, students are restricted to uniforms, long sleeves, and other conditions that many perceive as excessively restrictive. Across the country, teenagers argue that this restriction of self-expression limits the way they choose to represent themselves. People in support of a dress code argue that it contributes to a safe and orderly learning environment.

The emphasis on uniforms and a dress code began as a campaign in the 1960’s with the slogan “dress right, act right.” The aim of the campaign was to curb juvenile delinquency and gang activity, and it has continued into the modern era. Clothes have been tagged as a means of identification: intimidation, bullying, and other negative effects have resulted from this.

At Glen Rock, the dress code (from page 59 in the student handbook) states conditions such as no spaghetti straps, no exposure of stomach, and pants that must reach fingertip length. Speaking from personal experience, in practice, the school has very easy demands to meet. There is no villain, no unreasonable authority that polices the halls, searching for girls whose pants are an inch too high or straps too thin

I personally believe that the current administration does everything in its power to allow for students to express themselves as well as hold to their responsibility of enforcing policy. The motive for policy this is clear, and understandable. However, I believe that dress code policy contributes to the systematic oppression of young girls.

In the workplace, or in public, there is clearly an unspoken dress code that exists. Schools have a responsibility to teach it’s students that there is a certain way that a person must dress in different environments. However, just as much as there is a dress code outside of the classroom, there also is freedom in self determination and expression. Limiting specific students’ rights to wear things that are legal in the state of New Jersey does not teach them anything, it shows them that the way they choose to express themselves is fundamentally wrong in the eyes of authority. As a result of this, students feel misunderstood from their administrators, creating further isolation between the two groups.

Dress codes not only create a sense of ostrcization and isolation, but essentially charges young girls with the task of preventing the sexualization of their bodies. They are told that dress codes are put in place in order to prevent distractions. According to the leader of the American Civil Liberties Union Nadine Strossen, the only studies that have been produced on this so called ideal learning environment are “self-serving, anecdotal reports from particular schools that have promoted dress codes and are not surprisingly, trying to justify them.”

The solution to this problem is clear; let students dress as they see fit. As long a student’s clothing does not violate any laws in the state of New Jersey, the school can state that they are adequately preparing their students for the “real world”. The justifications for dress codes are based in dated views on the safety of female students and prejudice. They are outdated and do not belong in the modern era of female empowerment.