I Want my Pink Shirt Back


Alyssa Boos

As rumors flew around Seaman High at the beginning of the school year, a rumor that the dress code would be changed and more enforced spread like wildfire. Assistant Editor, Kendal Broughton, picks apart the dress code from the SHS student handbook in a striking opinion article from Volume 91, Issue 1, entitled, ‘Rumor Has It…’

“Oh my God, I love your skirt! Where did you get it?” The powerful Regina George once said to a classmate. Notice how nothing was said about how the skirt was distracting to other students for violating dress code? And while Miss Regina George did not truly like the skirt, that is not the issue. Rather, the issue is how the dress code at Seaman High School, along with many other public schools across the country, claim certain clothing is distracting, and disrupting the learning of others. The dress code at Seaman High has not changed in five years, so why are the halls filled with chatter about a possible change? While trends have changed slightly over the past five. Students are not dressing differently than they have in the past five years, sure trends change, but not enough to where the learning environment is being compromised for anyone.

On page 59-60 of the Seaman High School Student Handbook 2021-2022, the expectations of the dress code are laid out, however, they are extremely generalized. The first rule the dress code states are, “Appearance must be neat and clean. 1. Hair must be clean and well-groomed. 2. Facial hair must be trimmed and maintained. 3. Clothing must not be unreasonably soiled or badly worn.” While this is not the most common cause of dress code violations, when a student violates one or all of these rules, is the student’s home life taken into consideration? These rules are stated in the handbook, therefore disciplinary action may be taken against the student, but the problem may not be addressed correctly. Besides, one student’s definition of “neat and clean,” “well groomed,” “unreasonably soiled,” or “badly worn,” may be different than that of the administration, and how is it fair to discipline a student for small infractions such as these?

Not only are the rules vague, but they are also mainly targeted towards girls. In the 2021-2022 handbook, the dress code addresses: “students wearing shorts, skirts, or dresses deemed excessively short, or excessively low- cut shirts may not be worn; spaghetti straps and one-strap tops/dresses will not be allowed; and all shoulders, sides, back and midriffs must be covered.” Along with this, teachers and/or administrators are the one’s allowed to decide if clothing is inappropriate for school. But students are minors, and unless the clothing is obviously exposing a part of the body that is inappropriate (chest, butt, etc.), why are teachers allowed to deem clothing “distracting” if no other students have complained. “Some may stand out in a crowd but it’s never been distracting,” explained Junior, Lindsey Smith. Another student, Jaxon Kramer says, “I have never been distracted by anything a student has gotten dress coded for.”

Many students agree that when an adult dress codes them for something such as their midriff, shoulders, or shorts being “too short.” When brought to attention, this often makes students feel self-conscious or upset. Not only does this rule make students at SHS uncomfortable, but when a dress code violation is received, students are not permitted to attend class until they have changed into “acceptable” clothing attire. Missed class time because of this results in natural consequences such as tardies, and missed work or instruction. “I was once dress-coded by a male administrator who kept looking at my chest, even though I was only being disciplined due to my midriff being shown,” said a female senior student. “He then told me that I would need to get a jacket from a friend, or my car, and if I could not find one, I would have to go home to get one, then return to class immediately. My absence would not be excused and I would need to makeup classwork in CLP or after school.”

While the rules in the dress code do make some sense, there are some holes in it.

Discipline for violation of dress code is inconsistent throughout the school. If a student came to school on different days wearing the same shirt, that student may or may not be dress-coded depending on what teachers or administrators see them on that specific day. Also, two students, specifically girls may be wearing the exact same shirt, but with varied body types, the shirt may fit differently. Teachers may deem one girl dressed “indecently” while the other one gets no discipline. If it is the exact same article of clothing and nothing explicit is exposed, why should only one of the girls receive a dress code violation? Along with that, for taller students dresses, skirts, shorts, etc. may look shorter on them than others. Students that have shorter legs can have articles that show much more skin, and there are no consequences. This could be taken as discrimination against certain body types, and if there are no specific rules, how is it fair that students cannot come to school comfortable without possibly being scared about being dress coded. “You never know what you may or may not be dress coded for. Not everyone has the same type of body so it’s hard to make a dress code that fits all equally, no one size fits all,” says Jaxon Kramer. Discipline throughout students is non congruent. For example, former student Caleb Kerr got dress-coded for wearing a playboy shirt, with just the logo, nothing suggestive or inappropriate. That same day, another student wore exactly the same shirt with no violation points. “I was wearing the same shirt as one of my friends, and I got dress-coded but she didn’t,” said Caleb Kerr. When teachers dress code students, they believe they are following the dress code. However, since the rules of the handbook are general, the opinions vary. Therefore, it is possible students or other faculty members disagree with others’ opinions. “One of my friends had on an oversized crew neck and Nike shorts, but got dress-coded because her shorts were “too short”. I think that was a little much since it’s a pretty casual outfit and multiple people wear that on the daily,” Smith described.

This is only one of the big issues with the dress code. There is no clarification as to what exactly a violation may be; the rules are extremely general. There are multiple reasons as to why the dress code has broad rules. If the dress code were to be too strict, it may be seen that the school district is trying to enforce a uniform, which would likely not pan out well with students and parents. Stern dress code rules could lead to even more controversy than the current dress code has.

The other huge issue regarding the dress code is how the consequences for those violations are more than those of sexual harassment. This implies that when students are wearing “provoking clothing” it is their fault for being harassed. If someone is uncomfortable with being able to see another person’s shoulders, stomach, back, etc. The problem is them. When a student chooses an outfit for school, it is more than likely an outfit that they personally are comfortable in. If the student wearing the clothing is comfortable in their own skin, then why are they the ones being disciplined, when the people complaining are the real issue.

Sexual harassment is not the victims fault. The predator is always the one at fault.

The handbook states, “When acts of sexual harassment or other violations of this policy are substantiated, appropriate action will be taken against the individual.” However, this is a very general statement and there are no guaranteed consequences.”

Sexual harassment is a behavior. It may include, but is not limited to: verbal harassment or abuse; pressure for sexual activity; repeated remarks to a person, with sexual or demeaning implication; unwelcome touching; or suggesting or demanding sexual involvement accompanied by implied or explicit threats concerning a student’s grades, participation in extracurricular activities, etc. If any of these things were to happen to a student, the handbook claims that appropriate action will be taken against the individual. However, there has been proof this is not 100% accurate, a sophomore student reported her abuser to multiple principals. They told her there was a possibility of his expulsion not only because of what he had done to her, but that she is not his only victim. Weeks later, there has been no update as to what will or might happen, and he has suffered no consequences. This specific predator has made other students– who would like to stay anonymous– feel unsafe or uncomfortable. These girls are scared to reach out because they have seen evidence that it is likely nothing will be done against him.

The handbook also states, “If the matter is not resolved to the satisfaction of the student, the student may initiate a complaint under the district’s discrimination complaint procedure.” While it is understandable, that if there is an ongoing investigation against a person’s alleged sexual abuse, there may not be certain things possible to do at school. There may be other instances where a victim is not fully ready to tell their guardians or other officials about their abuse, and the trusted adults in the building should be able to have some authority to decide what is a safe and reasonable way to discipline them. Also, a victim should not have to worry about their abuser being around them during school, or possibly having anything else happen. For instance, if the victim has a class with the predator, it would make sense for the predator to be required to switch class, rather than the victim. Although a small consequence, this may feel like a win to the victim. If the target of the harassment was forced out of the class, it’s resembling a consequence and a win for the predator.

The lack of consequences for students who make classmates feel unsafe is unthinkable. It is hard enough for people to come forward and tell their story, and knowing that not much will be done to help feel safer, makes it that much more difficult. In a survey given to 60 students at SHS, 3 in 4 students said they have experienced in-person inappropriate comments or jokes. Over half saying they have been cat-called; 45% have been touched or groped without consent; 35% being physically followed; 1 in 4 forced into sexual behavior; and 30% having images taken or shared without consent. This is an issue that can only be stopped with discipline. No action is being taken towards the people who do these things which leads them to believe they can continue to get away with it. Being sexually harassed is only one person’s fault, the predator.

What people decide to wear to school should not be an excuse for others to degrade, accuse, or diminish them. Students’ should not have to live through traumatic events because “not much can be done” with the school. If a student does not feel safe, it should be a number one priority to fix that. Although Regina George wasn’t the nicest person, there was never a question that she was making students feel physically unsafe at school. It may have been “the ugliest effing skirt” she has ever seen, but her body was not mentioned once.