Controlled By Clothes

March 8, 2022


Schools have a lot of rules and expectations, but one that I have never understood is the dress code. Why do adults feel the need to control how kids dress? I go to NYOS Charter School, a K-12 school, and there is supposed to be a dress code for every grade level. For high school we are supposed to wear a navy, gray, or white polo and navy, black, or khaki pants. For elementary school it’s the same, but they have the option of wearing red polo shirts.

The NYOS handbook states that students aren’t allowed to wear “tight fitting shorts or pants, sweatpants, skirts, leggings, tank tops, pajamas, etc.” However, since we have returned from remote learning, our dress code has not been enforced. All the students at NYOS go completely against the dress code. My school used to argue that “girls cannot wear any clothes that show their shoulders or too much of their thighs,” and honestly, if one student is distracted by another student’s shoulders, teachers need to have a talk with that student individually. 


I’m super relieved though. It’s very freeing that we don’t have to worry about these restrictions anymore. In years passed when they used to enforce the dress code no one would compliment anyone’s outfit because we were all dressed the same! So now that the dress code is not that important I’ve been seeing and receiving many compliments on the way we all dress, and in my own personal opinion getting compliments on the way you present yourself is one the best compliments ever. 

When the dress code was still enforced, we would have “free dress Fridays,” in which every Friday we would be able to wear whatever we wanted. However, we still had to follow certain rules that limited what we wear. I remember everyone always looking forward to Fridays because we would finally be able to wear what we wanted to and just feel confident in our clothing. 

Girls had it way harder, which really reflects our society. The school was more strict with the way girls present themselves at school. A lot of women’s clothing consists of items that would have been considered “distracting” by the rules outlined in the handbook, as in, spaghetti straps, crop tops, ripped skinny jeans, skirts, or leggings. I’ve never understood why teachers used to say the things girls wear are “distracting.” Honestly when you think about it, who actually sits in class staring at girls shoulders or legs?

I asked my friend Hailey how she felt about the dress code, and she agreed that the stated dress code was “silly and not that important.” She said, “I found it surprising when they started being super strict with the dress code (before remote learning), because they aren’t so strict about so many other things.” 

In my opinion, as long as students are not showing body parts covered by undergarments then it’s fine.

Sometimes I think about next year and what would happen if they re-install the dress code and become more strict with it as they were before. Some people might be in a financial situation and can’t afford the clothes for the dress code, yet somehow they could get in trouble for not being in dress code. That feels grossly unfair.

As you can see the dress code is completely and 100% untenable. and if you were to interview every student in NYOS right now they would all tell you the same.I think the school should listen to students more and get new ideas from us.

 A couple years ago I heard administrators and board members say “We (NYOS) use the dress code to make sure who goes to NYOS and who doesn’t,” a way of making sure no dangerous persons enter campus. When I heard them say this I thought, “What about on Fridays? Everyone wears what they want to on Fridays, so how could you identify who goes here and who doesn’t?” 

Some advice I would give to the school board would be to let kids express themselves however they want to, because at the end of the day does wearing a polo and black pants help you academically, socially, or emotionally? No, it doesn’t. The clothes we wear don’t hurt anyone at all.



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