Stories of schools banning yoga pants, leggings, even tank tops and shorts, are becoming more and more common. There are stories about girls being sent home for wearing leggings.
By contrast, SLA’s dress code has always been vague. If fact, SLA doesn’t have a written dress code; but according to the code of conduct, students must follow these three guideline “1: Respect and care about yourself. 2: Respect and care about the community and its members. 3: Respect and care that this is a place of learning.”
This vagueness, while intentional, is more than a little confusing. It hard to determine what is appropriate and what is not, especially if you are unused to such freedom. A lot of the schools that SLA’s students come from have very strict dress codes. Some schools, like my own, even had uniforms. So what is it like to transition to a more open culture? I interviewed two juniors, Kwame Johnson and Sherell Messing, what their thoughts were on dress codes.
When asked if he had ever been distracted by a girl in yoga pants or leggings, Johnson’s response was an automatic and vehement “No! Never.” Later, on the same issue, he said:
I don’t care what I woman wears; it’s not affecting me any other way.” He’s response was even more passionate when I asked him if he thought dress codes enforced the stereotype that a woman’s body is an inherently sexual thing.
“I feel like that mindset came from back in the day where women were not considered equal… Their lives revolved around what men thought and what men told them to do. And I feel like we just haven’t caught up with the times.”
When I asked Messing what her thoughts were, she brought up the issue of crop tops, which several girls at SLA have gotten scolded for.
“I don’t think looking at someone’s belly button is going to make your GPA go down,” she said. As for inappropriate pants or shorts “I don’t think that somebody is going to stare at a girl’s pants for a whole class, a whole hour.”
She also brought up the issue of content over coverage. She mentioned seeing boys wear distracting shirts that could be considered offensive, and no one said anything.
“If you have a picture that is going to sexualize women on your shirt, and you’re wearing it in school, that’s a problem,” she said. “Not like you’re wearing yoga pants in school.”
How do they feel about SLA’s dress code? Johnson said he loved it, and the freedom it provided. Messing, on the other hand, had an issue with the vagueness of the policy.
“They tell that us we can wear we want, but when we wear certain things, they tell us we can’t be wearing that,” she said.
This is an issue that many girls at school have faced. Certain teachers will pull us aside and tell us that we can’t wear a certain shirt or pair of shorts again, because they are distracting. Yet other teachers will have no issue with the same articles of clothing. The inconsistency of this policy is confusing and difficult to understand.
I decided to ask Principal Aaron Gerwer about the policy’s vagueness. “I think really- it’s about what’s appropriate for a learning environment. So, if you wear a shirt that’s advertising drugs, or it’s degrading to women in anyway, personally that’s something I’ll call people on. But, to that’s the extent of my concern– except for somebody who wears something that just reveals too much body, than that becomes a distraction, too.
“We want to it keep so people feel free to express themselves, but also so that expression doesn’t lead to making other people feel offended or overly distracted.” It seemed pretty clear that he believed that the dress code was up to the interpretation of each student, teacher, and administrator.
We need to remember that SLA is a place of respect– and that includes respecting other people’s sense of self and style. I believe that Kwame put it best when he said, “It’s our body, and we have the say on what we want to wear, and what we don’t want to wear.”