The Right to Bare Arms: School Dress Code

Kaylynn Tavernier, Editor in Chief

During the 2021-2022 school year, West Ada School District is considering revising the current dress code. School administrators sent out a survey to get students’ opinions about what should or should not be worn. The same survey was sent out to the teachers as well. Students have very different opinions about how the dress code should be.  

Lex Cox is a senior at Rocky Mountain High School. Cox said, “I think that they should let kids express themselves by wearing what they want to wear…If the girls’ shoulders are showing the teachers get on them, but if a guy shows their shoulders, then they don’t care.”  

Some students would change the dress code in different ways. Cox said that if it were up to her, “There wouldn’t be a dress code, but if you weren’t fully-clothed, then that would not be ok.”  

Some students think about different positives and negatives about the dress code. Cox said, “I do not think there are any positives to the dress code. It is keeping students from showing how they want to dress, and they are just going to rebel against it anyway.”  

Cox also said, “All hats should be worn. They say that it covers your eyes, but really when you wear a mask, it covers your entire face, so the hats are not going to make any difference by covering your forehead.” 

Jeremy Dinwiddie is a senior at Rocky Mountain High School. Dinwiddie said, “Most of [the dress code] is unnecessary at this point. If you are not going to enforce it, then take it out.”  

Many people have wondered if school dress codes target certain genders. Dinwiddie said, “A lot of the stuff they talk about in the dress code is more feminine; you don’t see much in there about restrictions on guys.”  

If the dress code had no limitations, the students would change it in different ways. Dinwiddie said, “I would make it emo day every day. You need to look like you just walked out a Hot Topic from 2004; I better see Liberty spikes and Mohawks every day.”  

On the contrary, students believe there are some positives to the dress code. Dinwiddie said, “It stops people from showing all their skin.” Not everyone knows what a hanging belt means in the dress code, which is one of the items currently being reevaluated, but a couple have an idea. Dinwiddie said, “According to my information, it is a belt strap that goes like far down. It is one that is looped around your waist.” And what about hats? Dinwiddie also said, “Hats should be able to be worn, because it’s a good cover up for a bad hair day.” 

Matt Smith is one of the vice principals at Rocky Mountain High School. Smith said, “The dress code that I know, in our handbook, was created in like 1994 or 1995. It needs to be updated and the district’s looking at doing that right now. There is a committee; Mr. Dransfield [another RMHS vice principal] is on that committee of people looking at our dress code and what needs to be changed with it.”  

Smith said, “I think a large portion of what we are dealing with, is dealing with female dress. At this school here, we work with [dress code violations like] hats, things like that. We try to limit them from that stuff. But what is in dress code, I think mostly, is really talking about female dress code.”  

The dress code was the same then as it is now. Smith said, “I graduated in 1989. And I do not think it is changed much at all. [The district] was really talking about the dress code that was in 1950. Compared to us, it really has not changed the since probably [the] late 1980s.”  

Smith said, “If I were to change anything, I would not change anything except for the examples that it gives for dress code. [The current dress code] says that anything that is an educational disruption…you should not be allowed to wear something that is an educational disruption. I would say we go with that. Because all of that becomes the examples, we have problems with. If it says you cannot wear something off the shoulders and things like that, well, that might have been an educational disruption 20 years ago, but it is not now. So, let us let that educational disruption be for me, as a VP, to decide. So, if I walk into a classroom or a teacher sends somebody out of class and says that is a disruption, that is disruptive. They send it down to me, then that is disruptive. If something descends on me, I am going to ask somebody to change because it was a disruption. We get hung up on the examples. The crop top or whatever. What does that mean? Those examples are what we are getting hung up on; let us let the VPs and the students handle it, because I think we could.”  

There are some positives to having a dress code. Smith said, “I think there’s great things [about dress code]. If we could do uniforms at Rocky, that is what I would do, because it levels the playing field; everybody is wearing the same thing. It is cheaper for families, nobody [needs to] buy a ton of stuff. Kids hate uniforms, but for a family it would be fantastic. So, what do I like about our dress code? It is reflective. It allows student choice, [it] allows students to dress within the confines of a certain area. The ambiguity of it…those are things I have a problem with. The data applied 20 years ago, but it does not really apply now.”  

Smith also explained how, what, and why the hanging belt is not allowed. Smith said, “A hanging belt used to be for ‘gang stuff.’ They used to have a belt that would be a long, big belt. It would be like a ring belt, so it would go in and out of belt loops, and then it would hang down. And on that people would put letters, or they would put tags that other people could see. And it was related to gang stuff. Also, [it is a matter of] safety because that belt might get caught in a shop class, or something like that. The hanging belt was a fashion that was in 1994, 1995, 1996, 1997…right in there. It related to gang attire, and it was not even in the [Treasure Valley], but in California.” 

Some staff think hats are ok to wear, but it depends on the type of hat. Smith said, “But if it is my opinion, I think a beanie or a hat that kind of sits on top of your head [is okay]. The hats that we really worry about…It is more hoodies, because if somebody is in our building and we do not want them there, our security guys are constantly looking at cameras and monitoring stuff. That is how if somebody has a hat or hoodie on, it is hard for us to detect who that is. Now, what about when we started saying, hey, everybody must wear masks? Whoa, wait a minute, it covers our entire face. That did not seem to be a problem. But hats and hoodies did. I follow district policy. Like if my boss tells me that is what we are going to do, that is what we are going to do. But if it is my opinion of how things work, that is the way it is.” 

The dress code in West Ada School district is still under evaluation, and updates should be released soon.