BHS administration cracks down on dress code, causing student dissent

Female+students

Avery Romriell

Are you distracted by what these students are wearing?

Avery Romriell

After so-called “raids” on classrooms, students at Blythewood High are voicing disapproval of the administration’s enforcement of the school’s dress code, as well as the code in general.

Earlier this school year, administrative staff at Blythewood conducted what have since been nicknamed “dress code raids”. They entered classrooms during instruction and asked students to stand up to be inspected. Those not in compliance with the dress code were given the designated punishments for this violation, including detention and removal from class.

The dress code, which has been widely condemned by students for years, is outlined in the 2019-20 Richland Two Back-to-School Handbook. Among other rules, it forbids students to wear items such as hats, leggings, and tank tops, and requires all shorts and skirts to be longer than a student’s fully extended fingertips while standing with their arms at their sides.

Students have a myriad of problems with these rules. If asked, they will complain about many things—that the code is too strict, that it’s unfair to people with long arms, that they don’t understand the point of it. But one prevailing issue is that they feel it’s not evenly enforced, especially when it comes to gender. 

“I feel like it’s more targeted towards women,” Nate Becker, a sophomore at Blythewood, stated. “Girls, they have so much stuff they can’t wear, and they get called out for it more than boys.”

Several other male students echoed this point. One, freshman Caleb Dwiggins, claimed, “I don’t care about the dress code because it doesn’t affect me. It’s only a problem for girls.” 

Students also have a problem with the reasons behind the dress code. The district’s handbook includes an explanation for the code, which states, “students are expected to dress, be groomed, and otherwise conduct themselves in such a way as to not distract or cause disruption.” But many students take issue with this. 

First, students doubt that the clothing forbidden by the dress code actually disrupts learning. As stated by freshman Maddie Phillips, “Guys aren’t attracted to our shoulders anyway, and even if they were, it doesn’t stop them from doing school.”

Since students are sure that their clothing choices don’t distract their peers, they assume it must be an issue for the only other people within the school: the teachers and staff. To them, this speaks of a larger problem than short skirts and tank tops.

“If teachers are ‘distracted’ by the way a child is dressed, then they’re sexualizing children,” senior Alex Carroll stated. “If they can’t handle themselves around a teenage girl’s lower thigh, they shouldn’t have been hired as a teacher.”

Finally, students argue that enforcement of the dress code is more distracting than the clothes it forbids. Students are often pulled out of class and forced to wait for a family member to bring them a change of clothes. For a policy meant to make learning more efficient, this seems counterintuitive.

“I was once pulled out of class for an hour for wearing leggings,” Alex said, describing an all-too-universal experience. “It took my mom some time to get out of work, so I literally missed an entire class. Because my pants were made of spandex. Which is a thing nobody cares about.”

This also, of course, comes back to the dress code raids. To many students, administrators stopping class to inspect everyone’s clothes seemed like a pretty big disruption.

Junior Jacob Bree put this sentiment into words. “You know,” he said, “what I think is distracting to my learning is administrators coming into classrooms and saying ‘Stop everything, we need to dress code everyone now’.”

Since the initial incident, no further raids have been conducted. The administration has made no school-wide statement on whether or not the practice will continue. 

There has also been no announced intention of changing the dress code or the penalties for breaking it. Significant changes in school policy, such as a dress code alteration, do not typically occur in the middle of a school year. The next expected opportunity for such a change would be the start of the 2020-21 school year.