Dress Code Debate


Juliana Bernal and Sarah Brager

Over the last few years school dress codes have been a popular yet controversial topic, one that students are especially passionate about. Recently, faculty are cracking down on those that do not meet dress code, and it has sparked a dissatisfaction amongst some in the student body. While the policies were enforced to promote stronger concentration in the classroom, many believe the rules foster demanding and unrealistic expectations for adolescents.

Those affected feel the policy enforcements have created a stressful learning environment and are counter-productive in their current state. Some feel that the constant fear of being monitored while walking down the halls has become even more distracting than the clothes themselves. While most students understand the school’s responsibilities, they feel their methods of administering these rules has become more mentally demanding than it should be.

“All these new school rules have created a stressful atmosphere, and I feel like I am being restricted in so many different ways. It creates stress and anxiety for me to fit these certain guidelines,” sophomore Mia Courson said.

School administrators say the dress code promotes an ideal student – one that is well-disciplined, respectful, and hygienic. They also argue that the policy will prepare students for the responsibilities that come with college and employment. While even if they do not necessarily agree with the rules of the dress code, many parents admire the fact that the policy teaches students to respect authority. In the end, the administration’s goal is to create an environment where students can have distraction-free learning.

“The idea behind a dress code is that it minimizes distraction, so people are less focused on what they’re wearing, versus what is going on in the classroom,” Assistant Principal Megan Zembik said. 

At present, the district has guidelines on clothing, hair color and piercings. The quote on the Dress 4 Success website that leaves both students and parents feeling conflicted.

“Your appearance is your expression to others about who you are and what you stand for. The way you look reflects your self image, attitude, confidence and state of mind. A strong, purposeful presence is the hallmark of an executive image,” said Natalie Jobity.

Policies that conceal a student’s self expression could have detrimental effects on their mental health.  According to Dr. Daniel Siegel, author of “Brainstorm: The Power and Purpose of the Teenage Brain,” the most important milestones of adolescence include creative exploration and social engagement.

“Self expression is a gateway to developing autonomy and a healthy sense of self. Adolescents that struggle with identity and autonomy are at a greater risk of suffering from mental health disorders,” child and family therapist, Dr. Kimberly Harrington-Delgado said.

When people are unable to communicate their personalities, it can result in self harm or rebellion. For example, being regulated based on appearance could lower self-esteem and promote negative body image. Dr. Harrington-Delgado addressed the idea that most health disorders and suicidal thoughts emerge during adolescence. “It is the responsibility of adults to create an environment that encourages growth of teenage individuality,” she said.

Many feel the dress code targets more women’s clothing items than men’s. *In a poll of 40 Hays HS students, 18 girls were dress coded, and 15 boys were dress coded.

“It reinforces the notion that women aren’t equal, and that they are a distraction, that their body or their look is more important than their brains,” said one student, who chose to remain nameless.

After researching dress code policies from surrounding schools and districts, Hays has to be one of the strictest. Some schools across the nation are completely re-writing dress codes to keep up with fashion.

“There is a more effective dynamic to be had between administration, teachers and students, that involves less fear-based interactions and more communication. We want to be treated like people not subordinates,” said junior Mahalia Norton.

*Special thanks to media staffers Charlotte O’Dell and Reagan Gilbert for conducting our poll.