Some students feel UAHS dress code limits freedom of expression
By Emma Klebe ’13
In order to maintain an appropriate high school environment, the UAHS student handbook addresses the apparel students wear. According to the 2012-13 Student Handbook, “the Board of Education recognizes that each student’s mode of dress and grooming is a manifestation of personal style and individual preference.” The handbook further states that “the Board will not interfere with the right of students and their parents to make decisions regarding their appearance, except when their choices interfere with the educational program of the schools.”
Although the handbook appears flexible regarding individuals’ attire, some students feel as though their freedom of expression is more limited than the handbook states.
Junior Kenna Burtino believes that the dress code makes it more difficult for students to exercise their freedom of choice concerning their appearance.
“I definitely think a dress code takes away some of our individual rights to express ourselves to our student body,” she said.
Although freedom is important to Burtino, in some cases she believes specific clothing should be limited by administration.
“People shouldn’t be wearing daisy dukes and low-cut shirts to the point that people can pick them out in the halls,” she said.
Although Burtino believes that some attire should be regulated, she said that temperatures can make the dress code more difficult to follow.
“One time I did get asked to change shirts because a teacher who passed me in the hall could see my bra straps under my tank top,” she said. “What am I suppose to wear? It [was] 90 degrees out,” she said.
Burtino said that some of the problem is that clothing stores targeted at teens often highlight clothing that violates the dress code.
“Some people do push it with short shorts and low shirts, but it’s hard not to with the clothes some companies make for our age,” she said.
Sophomore Michaela Edmonds also said there should be a balance between dress restrictions and students’ freedom.
According to Edmonds, while limiting graphic tees can at times infringe on one’s freedom of expression, they can protect against promoting unsafe items.
“As for graphic T-shirts that may have been limited based on content, that could have been an infringement on expression,” she said. “It’s understandable for the administration to put a restriction on certain things that promote things that are looked down upon for high school students, such as alcohol.”
Similar to Burtino, Edmonds has had experience with dress code violation before.
“I once was approached [at UAHS] for my skirt being too short, but the teacher only told me to pull it down,” she said. “It was actually kind of embarrassing to be asked by a teacher to stand up in front of a lot of people and put my arms down by my sides [to check her skirt length], because I knew everyone had been staring.”
According to Principal Emilie Greenwald, maintaining and enforcing a dress code helps make for a more comfortable school environment for everyone.
“A dress code is important in order to maintain a safe, healthy school setting that is conductive to learning,” she said.
When it comes to finding a balance between students’ freedom of expression and an appropriate school environment, Greenwald said it can be challenging.
“I do value freedom of expression, but not at the expense of others, not when the clothing is a distraction to the student or others, and not when it promotes illegal or unsafe activity,” she said.
In the case of someone wearing inappropriate clothing, Greenwald said she will address the student personally.
“Occasionally, a staff member will see something inappropriate and ask me to address it with a student. If I see inappropriate clothing, I will stop a student and speak to them privately and ask them to change their clothes,” she said. “I will also lend a student a T-shirt if their shirt is inappropriate and they do not have another one to change into.”