Counterpoint: Should dress codes be enforced in public high schools?

Lena Kogan, Staff Writer and Contributing Writer

In a world where we are constantly reminded to be ourselves, it does not seem natural that the way we dress should get in the way of our self-expression.  The purpose of public schools is undoubtably education.  However, what a person wears or does not wear should not affect the way they or their fellow classmates learn.  Oftentimes the argument is that dress codes are instilled to better education, because they prevent distraction. But by and large dress codes do little but unnecessarily limit our rights to self-expression within the school.  Moreover, as was stated in the The Guardian, “According to educators and even some parents, young women’s outfits—their bodies, really—are too distracting for men to be expected to comport themselves with dignity and respect.”  However, dress codes are based partially on gender differences with girls fashion choices as a primary target.

“We don’t need dress codes,” said senior Sabrina Brennan.  “Believe it or not, girls actually have some common sense when getting ready in the morning, and we don’t need guidelines like in middle school. We should be allowed to use our judgement.”

It is understandable that not everyone will be in agreement with the type of apparel considered appropriate. But the situation is not any different outside of school.  Everyone is exposed to public areas where dress codes are not existent, and for the most part people are able to remain civil despite conflicting opinions.

“It is hard to assume that the entire student body has the common sense to dress appropriately,” said junior Elizabeth Muratore. “But I think that students should be allowed to freely express themselves at school through their choice of clothes.”

If students are not able to attend school without being distracted by revealing apparel, it is the distracted that need to change their behavior and perspective in order to properly function in our society.  Moreover, the enforcement of a dress code is guaranteed to come with a certain degree of bias that ultimately discriminates against self-expression.

“High school is a time when people are trying to figure out who they are and a big part of who they are is wear,” said junior Haley Sambursky.  “Enforcing a strict dress code takes that away and makes people conform to a certain standard.  Some people say that dress codes should be enforced because the way a girl is dressed is distracting to the male population of the school.  I think there are other issues that need to be dealt with in that situation.”

When the idea of dress codes in schools is unnecessary, its enforcement simply worsens the situation.  When a dress code is not enforced, it allows students to “disobey” the unjust rule which only brings them closer to eliminating the dress code all together.

“Enforcing dress codes does nothing but reinforce the feeling that we are prisoners in the school, and that everything we do is subject to the administration’s whims,” said junior Andrew Costenoble.

The dress code, especially its enforcement, takes away from the purpose of schools because students feel limited in who they are as a person, with a particular focus on appearance.

Of course, wearing text or symbols that are widely accepted as demeaning or promoting violence towards a certain group of people based on their gender, religion, race, or political affiliation is not acceptable neither in school nor in any workplace or public setting.

“It is a public school so I do not think administrators should be able to dictate what is worn and every student has the right to express themselves as long as they aren’t offending or hurting anyone,” said freshman Sally Hecht.

However, usual controversy over dress code enforcement is not over offensive language or symbols.  Rather, the debate is usually about how “revealing” clothing is.  Many situations involve girls, in particular, being told to “cover up” and wear more clothing to maintain “self respect.”  In telling girls to be “modest” or “proper,” dress codes are ultimately telling girls to be ashamed of their bodies.

“I don’t know that I’m the most highly stylized person at Schreiber but I do like the freedom that comes with being able to choose what I wear to school everyday without unnecessary limitations,” said senior Amelia Pacht.

Essentially, the enforcement of dress codes stifles students’ ability to express individuality, and ultimately comes with a guarantee of unnecessary biases that deteriorates freedom and the focus on education in schools.