By Sami Leder
In spite of the dress code and schools with similar dress codes having good intentions, many students (girls in particular) feel as if the dress code is, at times, contradictory to its purpose, or that the administration is unaware of the negative effects of the some of the rules, such as skirt lengths. Some girls in the past have decided to take action and write a complaint to the faculty calling for change, several of them even going for persuasive essay assignments in English class. Nonetheless, there has not been much response to these past grievances.
So why are these rules in place? The goal of dress codes in general is to create a safe and professional learning environment. One Pin Oak teacher said, “A common saying in the adult world is ‘Dress for the job that you want to have.’ Dressing for success and dress codes are not unique to schools. We see this in the business world too.” She feels that learning how to adjust and follow a dress code early on helps students prepare for the real world as well. Some schools, like Pin Oak, implement uniforms with certain articles of clothing and colors that are required, while others have a more open code that focuses more on eliminating distractions. Either way, the majority of schools have a restriction on length of skirts and shorts. “At Pin Oak we can point to several critical issues that are relevant to the institution of a uniform standard of dress: safety, divisions in social-economic status, and peer pressure,” Mrs. Graves states. “A ‘professional’ dress ensures that all students are set up for success in life.”
Despite the compelling arguments for stricter dress codes, many believe that if the dress code is in place to ensure everyone’s academic success, it wouldn’t be sensible for girls to be omitted from class because their outfit is considered inappropriate, or for whole lessons to be interrupted for a teacher to address the situation. Furthermore, quite a few also believe it is contradictory for the skirt rule to exist to ensure that everyone feels secure inside the Pin Oak walls, as many girls would agree that it is quite unwieldy to feel sheltered while being penalized publicly (which can be embarrassing) because of a skirt. In other respects, very few male students claim to be distracted or put at an academic disadvantage because of girls’ apparel. Some even go as far as to say that the dress code (explicitly the skirt length regulation) is perpetuating common mindsets that are now widely considered sexist.
Nevertheless, even if the staff does become more lenient regarding skirt lengths, Pin Oak girls still might not be completely satisfied. On free-dress days and free-dress field trips, female students are still not permitted to wear leggings (without a skirt over it), shorts, shirts that reveal the shoulders, collarbone, and/or midriff, yoga pants, hoop earrings, and “excessive” makeup, among many other clothing items and accessories. Even if an article of clothing is not prohibited in the dress code, the student planner proclaims that any staff member reserves the right to declare a student’s clothing choices inappropriate, and thus the right to discipline them. This may cause students to be punished when they did not even intend to violate the dress code.
What is your standpoint? Is dress code a beneficial asset to the school that guarantees every student can perform to his or her full potential and that nobody learns in unease, or is it an outdated regulation that puts students in discomfort and perhaps even promotes sexism or self-deprecation? Maybe you believe it is nothing more than a simple protocol of dress to be followed, or are possibly still undecided. Whatever your stance, we should all aspire to continue to make the Pin Oak community a learning-based and kindness-infused environment for all!