Defeating the Dress Code – High School Students Organize Protests
Brooklyn Baggett, Shahyan Pour Teimour and Soheil Khatib Ghavami
Co-Editor In Chief and Staff Writers
While students have been protesting the “discriminatory” dress code for years, a more widespread fight has taken place in 2021, including the September protest at MVHS.
Dress code is a set of rules that specify what kind of clothes are allowed to be worn during school, work, etc. Many people across the country are protesting this for multiple reasons.
The first of those reasons is that it sexualizes women’s bodies. The dress code infers that by a female wearing revealing clothing, they are automatically distracting students due to the sexuality of the clothing.
Another reason why the protesters believe the dress code should be removed is the “narrative” that it tells. It promotes, “narratives of females as objects and potential victims of harassment, assault, and rape because of their clothing choices,” according to Alyssa Pavlakis and Rachel Roegman from Phi Delta Kappan.
The dress code however, does not only affect females, even though they are the main target. Recent studies have shown that black males are twice as likely to be at risk of being disciplined than a white male. Additionally, a multiracial female is twice as likely to be at risk of being disciplined than a white female.
Widespread protests against schools’ dress code aren’t anything new. According to Time.com, in 2014, more than 160 students at Duncanville High School in Texas were suspended for violating the school’s dress code. The reasons for their suspension varied from not wearing belts to wearing the wrong colored shirt, to even having stubble on their faces.
Following the mass suspension, hundreds of students turned over trash cans, chanted, and started fights, which caused the police to get involved. The next day, students staged a sit-in to protest what they called “an out of the blue crackdown”. A Change.org petition rapidly gained hundreds of supporters.
This is just one example of the many protests that have occurred at schools across the nation, and they continue to this day.
The biggest dress code protest of 2021 was at WashBurn Rural High School, just south of Topeka in Shawnee County.
Many females of that school wore tank tops, with sayings such as, “My body, my choice.” Some males protested the dress code as well by wearing the same types of clothes. However, only one male student got reprimanded.
The protest led to serious discussion by the school’s administration and district. They met to decide whether certain attire is distracting from educational means or not, but the dress code in their district ended up remaining the same.
Some of our own fellow students at MVHS decided to take action for a cause that they believe in on September 9, 2021. Female and male students alike showed up to school in attire that would be deemed “inappropriate” by the student handbook.
Additionally, protesters met before school in a parking lot nearby to write phrases on each other’s bodies. One student had “my body is beautiful” written on their leg, and another had “Is this trashy?” across on their back.
Some students were reprimanded, and a petition on Change.org has received over 1,100 signatures. It is unclear whether the petition and protest combined have sparked any discussion among MVHS administrators or SVUSD administration.
It is likely that the fight for a change in schools’ dress code will continue for many school years to come, if administrators refuse to make any changes.