A Penny for your Thoughts
Although it wasn’t seriously enforced for the longest time, Pella High does indeed have a dress code. Until this year, I didn’t know what it was. No one I knew had ever been dress-coded, we never went over it in any classes, and I never bothered to look it up in the handbook. This year, however, all students were told the basics of what was and wasn’t allowed to be worn in school during homeroom class at the beginning of the year.
The rules prohibit items of clothing that promote anything illegal or have obscene images on them, hats being worn in specific places in the school, sunglasses, spiked jewelry, tube tops, other clothes that expose midriffs, cleavage, undergarments or shoulders, muscle shirts, tank tops, and skirts/shorts shorter than fingertip length. All of this can be found in the student handbook.
These aren’t the worst rules that can be enforced at a high school in America. There are some schools that won’t let girls show their collarbone, much less a bit of shoulder. In my four years at Pella High, I have never seen anyone get in trouble for violating the dress code for any of these things, even though I can remember several instances when someone was violating these rules.
Until this year, that is. This year girls have been reprimanded for their clothing. It wasn’t until a junior boy wore denim shorts for the first day of homecoming that I had heard of any boys getting in trouble for violating the dress code, even though I had seen many boys with shirts that had images that blatantly went against the code. The problem with the dress code is that it tells girls that their education is less important than any male in their class. The number one reason stated in our own school handbook for why these rules are in place is because it will “be a distraction.” It is not a teenage girl’s responsibility to ensure that the male’s have a “distraction free” environment, especially in a public school setting.
There are some cases in which the dress code is necessary. It would be wrong to wear a swimsuit to school, or to wear a tube top, or to wear anything that promotes violent and unhealthy behavior. Just showing a bit of shoulder, however, is not a distraction. Shoulders are not sexual. If a boy were to see a shoulder they would not all of a sudden lose their ability to focus on their class. These rules, and the enforcement of them, are unfair and reduce boys to a single stereotype. The whole of the female population should not be punished with covering up or being forced to go home in the middle of the day for what a few do. There is a clear difference between being inappropriate and wearing a tank top.