Taking a critical look at clothing policy
The first sentence on the dress code in our school agenda, on page 6, is, “In order for AHS students to reach their full academic potential, students must dress in a dignified and modest manner that supports a serious, business-like, safe environment focused on academic excellence.”
Regarding the clothing policy, Principal Mr. Musto said, “Coming to school is much like a professional obligation and how students dress can reflect that.” By that reasoning, the dress code trains us to wear at school what would also be appropriate to wear in professional situations or places, such as at a future workplace for a job.
All of this information about the purpose of the dress code seems sensible for the most part. It makes sense that we should dress somewhat conservatively, but the agenda seems to overvalue the relationship between clothing and academics.
A non-American High School hat worn outside the classroom, a blouse without shoulder straps, and a crop top showing two inches of skin are all examples of clothing that are against the dress code–and yet are not detrimental to our learning in any way. Chiding from faculty to students for such non-disruptive articles of clothing can lead to controversy. But perhaps the reason of the conflict is misunderstood between the two parties.
Mr. Musto commented, “I would note that [the dress code] is a topic that I know (in general) matters more to students than the adults on campus. Because we do not sometimes recognize why students care greatly are on the topic, we forget how students can feel that they don’t have a voice. I would hope that by discussing this with students and why dress codes are in place, they can better understand where American staff members are coming from.”
In addition, although the dress code seems mostly logical on paper, the enforcement of the code by staff is inconsistent. Some students may be able to deliberately get away with breaking the dress code, depending on the teachers they have or the faculty members they typically encounter. Those who are not as fortunate can receive consequences for wearing the same kind of clothing, only in the presence of stricter staff members.
The principal noted, “In my short time at American, I am not sure there’s a clear message
that has been given to students about the dress code. As a result of this, some teachers have a different opinions of what is acceptable.”
Evidently, the dress code policy and its enforcement requires changes in order to provide greater clarity and standardization. Mr. Musto has expressed interest in improving enforcement in particular.
“As far as enforcement goes, there needs to be more clarity for students and for teachers. That is what the administrators plan to do in the coming months. I will be speaking to ASB and getting their thoughts as a start to this process,” he said.
With any luck, that improvement will soon follow.