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Dress code leaves room for subjectivity

One+of+these+Scratching+Post+reporters+was+given+a+dress+code+violation+and+was+given+the+option+to+wear+a+school-issued+shirt%2C+but+chose+to+go+home+and+change+instead.
One of these Scratching Post reporters was given a dress code violation and was given the option to wear a school-issued shirt, but chose to go home and change instead.

One of these Scratching Post reporters was given a dress code violation and was given the option to wear a school-issued shirt, but chose to go home and change instead.

Katy Brennan

Katy Brennan

One of these Scratching Post reporters was given a dress code violation and was given the option to wear a school-issued shirt, but chose to go home and change instead.

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As students adjust to a new school year, they also adjust to the dress code. The VHHS code states that students should use “reasonable standards” when picking out outfits, which students have found to be subjective and confusing. Many students have been left with questions like, “What are ‘reasonable standards’?”or, “What can I wear?”

“I didn’t even know we had a dress code,” Zach Hanson (9) said. “What is it?”

Deans, Ms. Powell and Mr. Bellecomo, explained that Vernon Hills High School enforces a dress code that aims to ensure that no student is a distraction to the learning environment. To Powell, this means trusting students’ opinions, but intervening when necessary.

Powell explained that they discipline students for not following the dress code when private parts and midriffs are hanging out. Tank tops are acceptable as long as they do not hang too low. The best test for this is to put on your backpack, walk up your stairs, and ask someone behind you to check if they can see anything hanging out.

“We are trying to find that happy medium where you don’t look like you’re 50, but you also don’t end up on someone’s Snapchat,” Powell stated.

Powell added that this code is still applicable after school for sports and extracurriculars. Athletic Director, Mr. McDonald, explained that all uniforms — including the cheer uniforms pictured — are approved by the school to meet the needs of the athletes and their sports. When athletes are not in uniform though, they are expected to wear a properly-fitting t-shirt and shorts.

While the deans try to address every student who violates the dress code, they acknowledge that that is not always possible.
“It’s like speeding,” explained Powell. “Sometimes you’ll get caught, and sometimes you will get away with it.”

Department Supervisors, Mr. Prosise (Science) and Ms. Nieves (English), explained that they try to avoid punishing students for their outfits. Prosise only refers students to the deans for their clothing when absolutely necessary, whereas Nieves said she would take a different approach.

“I don’t think I would ever code anyone for dress code. I would have a one-on-one conversation with him or her and explain what is appropriate,” Nieves explained. “I wouldn’t be disparaging towards him or her because some kids just don’t know, and I think having the caring adult talk to them is the way to hit it.”

Prosise mirrored Nieves’ opinions on the dress code, explaining that he avoids discipling students for their clothing unless it is completely distracting to the classroom. He stated that as long as students do not show up to his class in flashing LED lights and are covered appropriately, they are not considered a distraction to class.

While two department heads are not likely to refer students to the deans for their clothes, some students have still found this “reasonable standards” dress code to prove difficult to interpret and follow. According to Powell, only a handful of dress code-related punishments occur every season; however, some students have been received punishments for their outfits up to four times in their time at Vernon Hills.

“Freshman and sophomore year, it was annoying because I got coded four times just because my bra strap was barely showing,” Niki Coad (11) said.

Dani Tsvilikhovskaya (10) shared that she “gets in trouble for tank tops all the time” when other girls in similar outfits are left unreprimanded. While the punishment for a second offense dress code is only a detention, Tsvilikhovskaya explained that it is extremely inconvenient for her to find the time to serve due to class and activities.

Both girls raised the question of whether Powell’s speeding metaphor was accurate. Being coded multiple times a year, the girls questioned whether the process was truly unbiased.

“I get in trouble all the time, yet most girls can get away wearing barely any clothing time after time. Why is that?” inquired Coad.

Dean Powell explained that they address these dress code violations as teachers or security guards bring them to their attention. While some students do not believe that this should be security’s responsibility, Powell explained that security is in the hall more than anyone else, so they are required to refer students to the deans if necessary.

Due to the violations being reported by teachers and security, some people will get caught and others will not; it is purely dependent on what teachers students run into on a given day.
While both Tsvilikhovskaya and Coad agreed that the dress code is becoming more lenient, both still feel that the code has a long way to go.

“Everything evolves as time evolves, but school seems to be the only thing resisting,” said Tsvilikhovskaya. “It’s not fair to enforce a dress code that isn’t ‘modern.’”

Powell responded, “We are trying to be mindful of the times… We know that options are limited.”

Both deans hope that this year will be free of dress code violations as long as students dress within “reasonable standards.” It will always be a gamble, though; sometimes people will get reported, and sometimes they won’t — it is all subjective.

 

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