Dress Code Has Good Intentions

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It has good intentions—“to ensure that every student has a safe environment in which to learn,” according to the Anchorage School District’s guidelines. It is a set of guidelines put in place to make our high school a comfortable and safe place. But can it do its job? Walking down the halls from class to class at Dimond, it’s questionable. Anyone can the see bare shoulders, bare legs and just about everything in between. Ross McCrorie, a senior, holds the same opinion on the number of infractions he sees, saying that he sees dress code violations “constantly, every day.” Teachers are, in general, of the same opinion. For example, Lem Wheeles, a social studies teacher at Dimond, said that he sees several “questionable students” every day. However, violating the dress code isn’t simply a matter of breaking the rules; it can be a matter of safety. Wilma Keller, a chemistry teacher, stressed that one “has to be able to move around in a lab,” and spoke about how sagging clothes and flip-flops can be dangerous in a lab or a shop. So, how does the administration enforce something that everyone disregards? It’s a difficult question. The relationship between teacher and student makes it difficult to point out infractions in the dress code—it can be awkward for both parties. Actually enforcing the dress code can be uncomfortable for staff and students alike, but not enforcing it means basically condoning open disregard for rules. So teachers are left with limited options. According to Wheeles, teachers in general try to refer students to administrators or security because they can be “more consistent.” Besides discomfort issues, the sheer number of students breaking the dress code is an obstacle. The mass of students packing the halls of Dimond make it almost impossible to pick out, pursue, and punish any one breaker of the dress code. Kevin Theonnes, Assistant Principal, says that he sees anywhere from five to fifteen girls breaking the dress code any given day, and “many, many boys.” In addition, many students just don’t want to uphold the dress code. Many consider the way they dress a form of personal expression, and busting them for breaking the dress code can, in their mind, infringe on their right to be themselves. According to Dale Evern, Freshman House Assistant Principal, people break the dress code for a number of reasons. “Sometimes it’s the last thing they have to wear in their closet, sometimes it’s a little bit of rebellion, and other times, boys have forgotten their belts,” he said. So administrators and teachers are left between a rock and a hard place. It is obvious that there is significant effort by the administration to uphold the dress code: Jessie LaRosa, a senior, for example, said that she sees it being enforced when “Ms. Hart is in the hallway yelling at people,” and some teachers, like Keller, are completely comfortable “telling guys and girls to cover up.” The administrators and staff are doing their best when it comes to the difficult job of enforcing the dress code, though, as Theonnes said, “to see kids develop their own self-discipline and police themselves” would make it easier for everyone involved.