By going into the student handbook and taking a quick glance at the dress code, it isn’t hard to find a gender bias directed toward girls. With the restriction of low cut blouses, tops with spaghetti straps, tops which reveal the midriff, and short-shorts, it is pretty clear that females are the main subject of these limitations. It is probably less likely that many guys are going to show up to school with a crop top and short-shorts on. The dress code limits the freedom girls have to both feel comfortable and dress how they want, and should be altered so the dress code is gender neutral.
The school does recognize this issue, and Middle School Principal Mr. Peter Lutkoski said that there will most likely be upcoming changes. Any changes, overseen by Coordinator of Student Life Mr. Payson Bullard and health and electives teacher Ms. Bambi Thompson, will come into effect most likely in the next school year.
“The way the dress code reads at the minute, without being specific towards girls or boys, you can read through the lines and see that it is not actually too equitable. So, one of the main reasons we’re doing this is really it is the right thing to do in terms of making it gender neutral,” said Ms. Thompson. These changes are however a long process to go through, and may take some time, especially since an edit to the student handbook is a big decision.
The dress code in its current form sends the message that girls need to cover up their body in order for boys to learn. “When a girl is forced to change or leave class to find something to cover up with, it tells her from a young age that her learning and involvement in class is less important than the other students (boys) that she may be ‘distracting,’” explained eighth grader Grace Gallagher. Gallagher brings up the important point of how even simply telling a girl to cover up puts the thought in her head that it is more important for a boy to learn than for her to feel comfortable expressing herself. “What you wear has no impact on how you learn, which is the purpose of school in the first place,” said Gallagher.
It is not a girl’s responsibility to cover herself up because it may distract a boy. “Dress codes are just sexist to both genders,” said seventh grader Jessica Swanson. “It’s saying that girls should be ashamed of their bodies and cover up, and saying that boys can’t help but ogle girls. Both of these things are bad lessons to be teaching middle schoolers.”
The focus shouldn’t be on what the girl is wearing, but that other students need to understand that the classroom is a place for learning, not staring. “We should be able to decide what length we are comfortable with. If other people can’t handle it… that’s their problem. The only thing that is important is that we are comfortable and happy wearing what we’re wearing,” Swanson explained.
Eighth grade student Anna Kopfler said, “I think in order for people to feel comfortable with themselves, they need to feel comfortable in their clothes.”
The current dress code limits the freedom that middle school girls have to express themselves, feel comfortable, and shows a gender bias. In order to eliminate gender inequality, a change must be made standardizing rules between genders. Hopefully the school will make this change in the near future, and there will no longer be inequitable regulations in the student handbook.