Letter to the Editor

A move to end the strict enforcement of the Spencer High School dress code

Tuesday, August 31, 2021

School should be a place where students feel safe and welcome, free from judgement regardless of their body type and gender, as well as all other restrictive societal norms. As a senior at Spencer High School, I am incredibly disappointed to see the harsh atmosphere in our halls this past week. SHS has enforced stricter dress code rules this year, causing feminine students to be uncomfortable when entering the building and walking the halls. Rather than using their position of power to stop the sexualization of these students and their clothing, some staff at the school have asked students to raise their arms above their heads in order to prove their shirt wouldn’t show their stomach. Masculine students are not asked to do this, despite their shirts having the same tendency to rise in such a position. The dress code rules disproportionately and wrongfully target feminine students, which is why I started a petition against this and received 1,100 signatures on the first day of being live.

The petition has offered a space for people across the Midwest to share the stories and opinions on the dress code enforcement here in Spencer. When explaining her reason for signing the petition, one mom credited her daughters, writing, “They are my reason. Along with every single other person who has ever been sexualized, victimized or criticized by any person in a position of power.”

Many voices of support quickly flooded in, where one SHS alumni voiced their support, adding, “A girl’s education isn't less important than a man's. Disrupting a girl's education because boys and male teachers can't control themselves is wrong.” Commenters from surrounding states and schools have criticized the strict enforcement of the dress code, where it has become evident that the written dress code does not match the enforcement of it in the halls of SHS.

Under Code 502.1 in the SHS Student Handbook it states that, “Any article of clothing which is excessively revealing or disruptive is considered improper. Spaghetti straps, midriff tops, muscle shirts, short shorts, and tops that reveal excessive cleavage are not permitted.” Our goal is to highlight the differences between the written code and how it is being implemented in our school. Asking feminine students to raise their arms is an abuse of power when the dress code clearly states the clothing must be excessively revealing, which these shirts that a majority of students are wearing simply are not. If it is found that students did break the dress code, they are given an unexcused absence and detention if they must go home to change.

Students are being told that their bodies are fundamentally inappropriate and worthy of this demeaning punishment. On behalf of my classmates at SHS we ask that the staff stop forcing feminine students to prove whether or not their clothing fits strict standards when the clothing is not excessively revealing, working to end the patriarchal standard that feminine bodies should be controlled and perceived by men.