Modernizing the high school dress code

by Sarah Jennings, Staff Writer

In January of 2019, female student at The Parkview Arts Science Magnet High School, Clara Mitchell, had her day interrupted when she got called to the principal’s office as a result of violating the school’s dress code. Mitchell was wearing a skirt that was said to be “way too short” according to a staff member at her high school. After being escorted to the principal’s office, Mitchell was asked to call he parents, and to have a change of clothing dropped off. It wasn’t after much time, and missed class that her father arrived with new clothing allowing Mitchell to return to class.

The incident left her upset but also angry. Clara Mitchell and a few of her classmates started a campaign, Pass the Skirt, that fights against unfair dress code. The girls are expanding their campaign through many social media platforms like Instagram, but also have a website with their story and other information surrounding her cause. 

Controversy over school dress codes is building this year. Students like Clara Mitchell have been embarrassed and singled out because of their choice of clothing. High school students nationwide have fallen victim to dress code violation punishments. They are being told their clothing is “inappropriate” and worse yet certain girls clothing is said to distract others from their school work. Most of the reported incidents are surrounding “short” skirts, or “revealing” tops more frequently related to girls clothing as opposed to boys. 

Telling female students to conceal their shoulders and hide their body is a direct association to female objectification. The authors of Sexual Objectification of Women: Advances to Theory and Research reports when a woman’s body parts are singled out from her as a person, it is sending the message that she is a physical object of male sexual inclinations. Girls can not be blamed for males actions. Dress coding students perpetuates the cycle of mental health problems (eating disorders, depression,etc.) that affect women. 

When a student has broken the school dress code, the normal plan of action is to take the student out of class, or even to send them home. The actual process of stopping the class and reprimanding the student is more of a disturbance then the clothing choice itself. A student being called out in class leads to a very awkward and uncomfortable situation for the targeted student and the rest of the class.

As a high school student myself, I have witnessed a close peer of mine forced to leave class to find a sweater to cover a shirt that was deemed inappropriate by their teacher. This girl was wearing a cropped tee shirt that pulled no attention except from this teacher. She conversed with the teacher but the attempt to be discreet failed and when my friend came back into the room in a sweatshirt and bright red face it was obvious to what the conversation had been about. At Glen Rock High School, the dress code  states “Students are expected to dress appropriately and within reasonable taste so as not to cause disruption.” Making a student feel ashamed of showing her body is something that would take self confidence from anyone. 

Societal standards are advancing with time, but schools seem to be stuck in the past when it comes to student dress code. Students are growing more angered by dress codes and the ideals for clothing that are pushed upon them by administrators. It is time for schools to begin updating their rules and giving students room to be themselves. Banning or modernizing school dress codes would be a step in the direction of ending the embarrassment of sexual objectification.