Students Upset About Dress Code Restrictions


In recent years, the dress code became a topic of discussion and controversy within the school system. The current policy states that students are prohibited from, “Attire that exposes or reveals the chest, midriff, pelvic/groin area, and buttocks.” The reasoning behind these rules is to create a learning environment free of distractions. In past years, Marriotts Ridge was relatively lenient in the enforcement of these rules, but a change in administration requires students to strictly adhere to county policies.
“Last year, I was able to feel comfortable in my clothing. I wore a cropped shirt to school and not one teacher said anything,” senior Abbie Edwards said.
Said enforcement has created backlash among the student body, and arguments and protests against the institution of dress code have arisen. Many students are ignoring the policy and continuing to wear crop tops and other items that violate the guidelines. A group of junior girls have taken their protests one step further and are attempting to change the policy.
“We made a petition and have gotten almost 200 signatures. We will probably bring it to the principal and see what he does,” junior Gracie Taylor said.
To enhance understanding of the policy and the changes that have been made to it over the years, the Stallion talked to HCPSS parent and member of the Columbia Council, Jessamine Duvall. Duvall played an important role in the change to the dress code as a member of the community advisory board that drafted a new policy. Through a series of meetings with the school board, the committee made significant changes to the original dress code. The 2019 amendments to the policy attest that students can wear spaghetti straps, hoodies, hats and head coverings, ripped jeans and any length of shorts and skirts as long as they cover one’s buttocks.
A big topic of controversy both in these meetings and within Marriotts Ridge has been the issue of showing midriff.
“The bare midriff part of the dress code was something that was important [to people] but ultimately that was not included in the policy. The new policy stated that you still had to have your midriff covered, which I did not agree with,” Duvall explained.
Many people have asked why the midriff policy exists and how showing one’s stomach creates a disruptive learning environment.
“Insinuating that showing midriff is inappropriate when it’s literally just somebody’s stomach is really unfair,” senior Bella Virden said.
The argument of certain articles of clothing creating a distracting environment has created anger as well. Many believe that the policies create a double standard among girls and boys because the items students have been prevented from wearing are more typically worn by those who identify as female such as crop tops, spaghetti straps, and low-cut shirts and that this connects to the culture of misogyny.
“It’s really restrictive, but only on girls. It talks about midriff and your shorts have to be a certain length but nothing really happens to guys,” sophomore Simao Saint said.
“I feel very strongly that it is not a girl’s responsibility to make sure that the way she looks doesn’t bother any men. She shouldn’t have to change how she looks just for someone else’s convenience,” Duvall said.
A big issue throughout the county has been equitable enforcement of the dress code, and many students have reported discrepancies in how the policy is handled among school staff.
“Some teachers will not dress code you for anything but other teachers are extremely strict about it,” freshman Julie Taft said.
“One of the problems I mentioned when we were talking about the dress code policy was that the enforcement of the dress code policy is very uneven. I don’t think administrators and teachers get adequate training on how to implement the policy in a way that is respectful,” Duvall said.
To avoid such issues, Duvall encourages everyone to look at the policy to ensure that it is being enforced correctly within the school.
Marriotts Ridge’s new principal, Dr. Dipaula, also spoke to the Stallion about staff enforcement of dress code, he explained that students can be assured that their concerns are not going without notice.
“​I have ongoing conversations with students, staff, and parents and have a good idea of what is happening around Marriotts Ridge High School. If a student feels that they have been unfairly addressed about the dress code and their attire is not in violation of the policy, I encourage them to come and speak to me directly,” Dipaula said.
While Dipaula is open to hearing student concerns, he is obligated to enforce the dress code.
“The elected Board of Education creates and approves policies, then schools are expected to follow those policies… In a nutshell, principals MUST share the dress code policy with students every year and staff need to subtly address violations as they arise … If students comply with covering up or otherwise addressing the issue when asked, then we are done. If students are chronic offenders, then we may need to call home or address in a different manner,” Dipaula explained.
Dipaula emphasizes that dress code infractions do not need to lead to severe consequences as long as students respond and do not wear the item that is prohibited by the dress code again. He also responds to student concerns about gender inequity in the policy.
“I would agree that I have personally seen more girls in violation of the dress code than boys… There is not a prohibited list of articles for males versus females, it is the same policy for all students regardless of gender. It is prohibited for any student, regardless of gender, to expose or reveal their chest/midriff, pelvic/groin, and buttocks. If boys are wearing clothing that exposes their chest, midriff, or buttocks, they would be addressed,” Dipaula said.
Dipaula also advises students to examine the dress code for themselves so that they are aware of the specific rules and guidelines mandated by the county. For those interested, the official policy can be found on the HCPSS website.