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Dress Code Dilemmas

Maclay’s New Dress Code Should Go

Photo by Becca McHaffie on Unsplash

With the buzz of the first month of school, Maclay students have been talking about the implementation of the new upper school dress code. The new dress code has new rules such as no athletic material bottoms, sleeves that fully cover the shoulder and more, which can be found in the upper school handbook. The dress code, having already restricted many comfortable clothing options such as leggings, now prohibits students from wearing sweatpants and athletic clothing. Many students, particularly girls, are struggling to find clothes that fit the dress code while still remaining comfortable and confident in what they’re wearing. The new dress code is supposed to better the school, but so far it seems to only be hurting the students. 

After hearing about the new dress code, many students rushed to stores and websites desperate to find appropriate clothing that they would only wear in a school setting. Students felt pressured to invest in more Maclay defined “appropriate clothing” outside of their regular wardrobe, fearing for the inevitable discipline of being found violating dress-code.  This added cost may have been one that many students and their families had not factored into their budgets for this school year.

Many of the guidelines that students are now required to follow make it difficult to find clothes that are comfortable. With the ban of clothings, such as joggers and any athletic wear, students are forced to wear subjectively dressy or uncomfortable clothing everyday to school, which can distract students in class because it is harder for students to remain focused when they are uncomfortable. For example, with the implementation of the new dress code, the only comfortable clothing options for female students must be chosen between skirts, dresses and jeans. While some students may consider these things to be comfortable, many do not and are forced to continue school in discomfort. A student being comfortable and wearing what they want is much more important than looking put together. Being comfortable also allows students to concentrate better and therefore improve their grades. The nice appearance of a formal dress code should not cost a student their academic excellence. Wearing presentable and dressy clothing to school may appear nice, but discomfort can affect the learning of a student which is the most important part. 

The enforcement of the new dress code is completely unfair and subjective due to the fact that girls and boys are being disproportionately dress-coded and the enforcement of the dress code is inappropriately done. For example, many students, particularly girls, are being harassed for the clothes that they are wearing to school, many of them conforming to the dress code as it is written. Not to mention that due to the variety of different body types amongst Maclay students, the dress code is extremely subjective to each person, harassing some girls for wearing clothes that other girls could walk around all day in.  Meanwhile, it seems boys are able to get away with wearing athletic shorts almost every day. The faculty should not condone certain students to violate the dress code while punishing others for minor issues. Additionally, the enforcement of the dress code is not properly executed. It is highly inappropriate to publicly shame students or pull them out of class due to a violation of the dress code. The faculty should resort to a different approach in order to dress code students in a more private manner. The subjectivity of the dress code has also caused it to be executed inappropriately towards different female students. For example, one  female student has been dress coded by a faculty member for wearing jeans that are “too tight on her thighs.” This is highly inappropriate and could potentially cause problems with body image. There is nothing in the dress code that prohibits students to wear “tight” jeans and no faculty member should be commenting on this. This harmful outcome alone demonstrates the dangers of the dress code and highlights some of the ways that the dress code has been poorly executed.

[After being continually dress code multiple times] “The next week I was told my jeans were too tight which isn’t in the dress code and I was continually pulled out of classes to be told I was against the dress code,” sophomore Lillian Koeppel said. “It was really frustrating because I felt like I couldn’t find anything to wear and that nothing was fitting me right.”

Last year students were not following the dress code and wearing “inappropriate” clothing to school. Many faculty members may argue that a strict dress code is necessary to prevent students from wearing similar clothing that was worn last year. However, although many students broke the dress code, majority of the time no faculty members enforced the dress code, so students developed the mindset that it was not necessary to follow. No matter how strict the dress code is, if no faculty members enforce the rules then no students will follow them. Additionally, teachers don’t have a concrete or explicit set of guidelines and are instructed to issue demerits for violations of dress code based on “what they think is inappropriate” which raises some concerns of how certain teachers will view students under these new policies. 

“On Wednesday’s Dress for Success, our faculty are encouraged [to do a write up] for any student out of Dress for Success and enter it on to our communication platform,” Dean of Students Heather Bas said. “If the student only appears to be potentially out of dress code for part of their attire for Wednesday or any other day, the teacher can say ‘I think you might be out of dress code’ and ask the student to go to the upper school office. The teacher will send us an email to let us know they are coming so that someone can be there to greet them and then to have the conversation about what they’re wearing- whether it’s in dress code or not.” 

Having to put teachers in the uncomfortable position of judging what a student is wearing can lead to distrust from the students towards teachers and a decline in academic performance. Additionally, the dress code largely applies to female students which means girls are more likely to be pulled out of class or given demerits due to dress code, which can put male teachers in an uncomfortable position.

“Yes, we have talked about it [dress code] quite a lot in meetings,” art teacher Ismael Milligan said. “In terms of specifics, I don't know, I frankly don’t feel comfortable dress coding students because it’s typically female students not in dress code and so I just try to avoid it unless otherwise forced to do so. I typically let the female teachers handle that. As far as male students, the only thing we really have to worry about with them is Dress For Success. For the most part it's not something I think about or pay much attention to, unless I am put in a situation where I have no other choice.”

Taking people out of class just to determine if what a teacher deems inappropriate is out of dress code or not takes away from students’ class time and can harm their mental health and embarrass them. Instead of punishing the students for not following the dress code that was not enforced in a strict manner, the school should find a more reasonable dress code and enforce the rules. Ideally, the school should return back to the previous dress code that allowed athletic wear and sweatpants, but instead of allowing students to get away with inappropriate clothing, they should enforce the rules. 


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Andy Poll

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