The Student News Site of Alexandria City High School

Theogony

The Student News Site of Alexandria City High School

Theogony

The Student News Site of Alexandria City High School

Theogony

‘It is More of a Girl Thing’

What should be done about the Dress Code

Regina Allen, Kate Casper, Reagan Feld, Chris Bright

“This has been an experience [where] I have learned a lot…Time to hit the pause button, which is what we did,” said T.C. Williams Principal Peter Balas at the Dress Code Forum on September 25.

The ongoing dress code debate this year has more or less been a war on shorts, with the most controversial aspect being the armpits-to-fingertips guideline. Christopher Thompson, Academy Two Principal and Lead Administrator of the Dress Code Committee said, “There [has been] an uproar about this armpits-to-fingertips [guideline]…this rule is not new. I do not know the science behind it…I do know that there is clothing that [is] probably too provocative for school, whether male or female.” 

“The purpose of the dress code was never about boys looking at females in a certain way,” said Thompson, “It was because certain groups of mostly females felt like they were targeted, so the purpose was to bring more fairness, consistency, and equity to the dress code.”

Students, teachers, and staff participated in a survey late last year to establish their concerns regarding the standards of dress; there were about 80 participants in the survey. Items that were considered “definitely not allowed” include “athletic cropped tops and muscle tees” (79 percent), “strapless or off-shoulder tops” (76 percent), and “shorts and skirts that rise above fingertips” (73 percent). Fifty-two percent of responses said wearing non-religious hats and hoods was definitely not allowed, while the remaining 48 percent considered it somewhat to completely appropriate. Over 60 percent of responses said that wearing slides and flip-flops is completely appropriate. 

Thompson said that these responses drove discussions in the Dress Code Committee, a panel that met throughout last year to refine the dress code and reform aspects of the previous code. “We got the data, [and] went to the committee with students, teachers, and other staff members,” said Thompson. 

In addition, they completed a SWOT analysis (evaluates the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats of the dress code). From this information, Thompson and the dress code committee examined other dress codes from schools in ACPS as well as other districts, to see how they were worded and what language they used. 

“I realize as a woman how difficult some of the [guidelines] can be for female students,” said King Street Campus Administrator Carmen Sanders. “I shop, I wear shorts, and [I know] that it is very difficult to find… [shorts that are] going to be fingertip length… I don’t think it’s unreasonable that shorts be a certain length to cover your private areas, in order to not expose yourself. I think that’s appropriate for a school setting.”

In response to the shorts debate, Thompson said, “I spoke to a class and I said if you can come up with a different method for [the armpits-to-fingertips rule], then we could consider it– [the dress code] is not the Constitution, it is not set in stone. We are able to go back to the table…We are open to that.”

Parents and students discussed this rule extensively at the Dress Code Forum, with several suggesting that there is no need for a dress code at all. “We should be putting the onus on the student,” said one parent. However, at a school as large and diverse as T.C., the question is not the necessity of a dress code; rather, the enforcement of the dress code.

Because George Washington and Francis C. Hammond Middle Schools have had the fingertips rule implemented for a number of years, along with several other more frivolous rules, like the no hats and tank tops rules, it begs the question: If the more restrictive dress code was okay in middle school, why are there issues now? The short answer is, dress code enforcement was much weaker in middle school than it has been at T.C. this September, and dress code enforcement in middle school mainly seemed to target specific groups of minority students. It seems, in an effort for this dress code to be more equitable, the T.C. dress code (and its enforcement) did not just target one group, but targets everyone.    

Junior Tatianna Marshall said that when she was “dress-coded” in middle school, “[the staff] would either send me home, or they would make me change into a gym outfit…They cared [about] what I was wearing and what my friends were wearing…I was targeted in middle school, but now I am [not].” In regards to the new dress code, Marshall said it has given her freedom to wear tank tops, ripped jeans, and hats, but the armpits-to-fingertips guideline “is not fair; nowadays, stores do not make clothes like that.”

Other students still feel like they are targeted by the dress code according to their race or sex. “[If] my Caucasion counterpart and I were together in the hallway wearing the same exact thing, I would be sent to the office, and she could get away with it because I tend to be more developed than her. Since I am a different race, [my outfit] would look more like a violation to the dress code,” said sophomore Glenda Amoateng.

“[When I come to school] in my tank top and get dress coded, I feel like a boy in a muscle tank should be dress coded as well. If a boy comes in sagging, [administrators] will not say anything… If you are going to tell me to change into a proper t-shirt, then you need to tell the boys that are sagging to pull their pants up… because I hate the fact that I have to go to the office, get my parents called home because of what I am wearing,” said Amoateng. 

While students acknowledge the positive changes made some students are afraid of being dress coded. “Even though the dress code claims to promote a safe learning environment. I am afraid to walk down the hallways, afraid to make eye contact with administrators, to go to my academy…” junior Mia Humphrey said. 

Sanders said that the intention of the dress code was not to target students, but to prepare them for dress expectations outside of school. “I saw it as a means of creating a positive climate in culture with expectations that prepares our students for when they are in different settings and have to comply with those expectations,” said Sanders.

Overall, the creation of the dress code was thorough and well-researched, but the main problem was how it was being enforced. Students should not have to feel embarrassed or humiliated because of a teacher or administrator’s comments about their clothing. However, T.C. should have a dress code. When enforced properly, not only will it ensure that everyone is dressed appropriately for a learning environment, but it will help promote a positive climate in the school through establishing dress expectations that can be applied to the real world.

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‘It is More of a Girl Thing’