Students at a Staten Island high school are frustrated with a strict new dress code that’s landing girls in detention for wearing shorts, despite the fact that many of their classrooms don’t have air conditioning. After the school reportedly gave detention to 200 kids — 90 percent of whom were female students — teens are gearing up for a protest again the rules.
The interim principal at Tottenville High School recently changed the dress code to prohibit tank tops, low-cut shirts, and shorts that don’t reach fingertip length. But it’s been hot during the first few weeks of school, and students say it doesn’t make sense to crack down on them for dressing comfortably for their “sweltering” classrooms.
“That’s what girls wear when it’s hot out. It’s unfair to them,” a senior at the school told the Staten Island Advance.
The students being punished for their clothing are being required to put on a large T-shirt and gym shorts provided by the school or wait in the auditorium for their parents to bring them a different outfit. In protest, some students are continuing to openly defy the dress code regulations and wear shorts and tank tops to school.
Both male and female students have complained that the dress code is “sexist” and “biased” toward young women. “Tottenville should just be an all boys school considering this dress code is only affecting the girls,” one teen pointed out. Another said it was “humiliating to be pulled aside like an object” to be told that her outfit was inappropriate.
Amid the growing controversy, school district officials released a statement noting they reserve the right to enforce a dress code in cases when students’s clothing “creates a distraction, is dangerous, or interferes with the learning and teaching process.”
Schools typically justify their dress codes by maintaining that it’s important to keep the classroom free from distractions; however, that language actually reinforces the idea that women’s bodies are inherently tempting to men and it’s their responsibility to cover themselves up. Students and parents across the country are increasingly pushing back against the double standard, saying that it sends harmful messages about gender stereotypes to kids. After all, if students are taught that girls need to dress a certain way so they don’t “distract” boys, that ultimately furthers the idea that boys can’t control themselves — and that unwanted sexual attention is sometimes justified because girls are “asking for it” with their short skirts and low-cut tops.
It’s also arguably more disruptive to the learning environment to single out female students in this way. Other girls have been called out in front of their peers, kicked out of school dances, sent home for the day, and forced to change into baggy gym clothes for wearing things that are deemed to be too revealing.
“I get that they want to teach us to respect ourselves and others, and that they want us to dress for success, but if you’re comfortable and relaxed in class — not sweltering or fearful you’re going to get pulled aside — you can pay attention better and learn,” one Tottenville student pointed out.