How Dress Code Rules Are Becoming Subjective

For years, students have pushed the limits of the school dress code, and faculty and staff have pushed back. Due to unclear or easily manipulated guidelines regarding the dress code, students, mainly the female population, have argued over what they should and should not be allowed to wear.

A common issue that many students have is the inconsistency with the dress code. Many claim that some girls are forced to change into their gym sweatpants while others can wear the same clothing and no one says anything. In many schools, it isn’t uncommon to hear phrases like, “If you were smaller, you could wear this and it would be fine.”

Then there are those who argue that the only way to solve this dilemma is to institute school uniforms. They say that this would eliminate the problem of unclear dress code rules, as well as many social problems.

“It puts everyone on the same playing field when they’re at school,” Kitty Rotella, principal of St. Mark’s Episcopal School in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, told CBS.

Psychologists and some educators believe that if everyone wears the same clothing, there will be less cliques, and therefore less bullying and teasing. Many students argue against this, claiming it infringes on their rights.

But what rights do students actually have regarding how they dress?

Students are still bound by the rules set by their school, including the dress code. But with these rules becoming increasingly subjective, how would a judge respond? Perry Zirkel, a professor of education and law at Lehigh University in Pennsylvania, told CBS that judges tend to let the schools and parents solve the issue. In these cases, it usually boils down to whether or not the student’s clothing is distracting.

Haley Bocanegra, a seventeen-year-old from Riverside, Illinois, purposely chooses clothes that are distracting in order to prove a point. She regularly dresses like a boy, or even wears wigs and goggles to create a Steampunk affect. On occasion, she also wears elaborate Japanese anime outfits.

While she may be paying attention, school officials argue that her clothing is distracting to the other students. But then again, maybe these kinds of outfits are only distracting because adults, and not necessarily the students, say they are.