Bear Creek students can be seen wearing tank tops and shorts, comfortable in their own clothes throughout the year. However, if these shorts are too short or if the straps are too skinny, students can expect to be “dress coded” by staff.
School dress codes are typically viewed by students as restrictive and by faculty as reasonable. Generally students understand the need for dress codes.
“I think [dress codes] are formed to cater to a school environment,” junior Destiny Farley said. “I understand why they enforce some rules.”
Others believe that while dress codes may seem reasonable, they are in reality more oppressive than helpful.
“We do express ourselves through our clothing,” junior Khennathan Chorn said. “It’s really not fair that people can’t express themselves just because it’s seen as something immodest or something inappropriate.”
However, many students agree that some rules commonly included in dress codes should be eliminated, such as the rules dictating the length of girls’ shorts or the width of their tank top straps.
“I wouldn’t wear a spaghetti strap to school, but I could see a girl wearing it and I don’t know if it would be completely inappropriate,” Farley said. “I don’t think it’s that serious.”
“Don’t be too strict on [girls],” junior Kim Hoang said. “Two inches or two centimeters [above the knee], they don’t really matter that much.”
Principal Hillary Harrell understands the struggles of students — especially young girls — with accepting their bodies as teenagers, but sticks with strict enforcement of dress codes. Harrell says she wants to make sure that young girls don’t feel judged if they are dress coded.
“I think that it’s very important that we don’t use language that makes anyone feel bad about themselves and their bodies,” Harrell said.
Some students disagree with Bear Creek’s policy on dress codes, saying that they should be allowed to wear whatever clothes make them comfortable, within reason. These students say that they should be given more freedom when it comes to their clothing choice at school.
“[Dress codes] are really restricting, and clothing is a way that people really express themselves,” Chorn said. “Putting rules or codes on it of what you can and can’t wear really … just doesn’t feel right.”
Students agree that there should be a limit, however, to what students can wear to school.
“As long as it’s not too revealing, like breasts or actual butt cheeks, I don’t think it matters,” Hoang said.
Though students say that there are multiple conflicts with school dress codes, the main issue occurs when many say that dress codes have not been enforced equally between genders. Female students, for example, say that they are dress coded relatively often.
“I think that the girls’ dress codes are way more strict and I don’t agree with it, but I understand why they enforce some rules,” Farley said.
“I almost was [dress-coded], and that got me really mad because [campus security] came up to me and I was following the dress code,” Hoang said.
“I got dress coded because my shirt was too short, and I understand, and I accepted that,” Farley said. “I had some of my midriff showing, and they made me go to the office and get another shirt.”
“Multiple times during the day [I see girls dress coded],” Chorn said. “Just during class, some teachers will point it out or talk to them in private.”
Meanwhile, students say that male students are rarely ever dress coded.
“It’s kind of boy-biased, if you think about it,” Hoang said. “I heard an administrator say to a boy, during rally day, ‘Since you’re a boy, it’s okay for you to wear that,’ so that’s something.”
“Being a guy, [dress codes] don’t really affect guys as much,” Chorn said. “Mostly just when certain guys sag, they get pointed out for it by certain teachers.”
Even during P.E., for example, male students are not dress coded when they take off their shirts while running or exercising.
“Girls aren’t supposed to take off their shirt for some reason, even if they have a sports bra or something under,” Chorn said. “It’s just seen as socially normal for guys to take their shirts off during exercise or when it’s hot.”
“We’re so used to [guys taking off their shirts] in society, and in sports and everyday life,” Farley said. “Not that it shouldn’t be allowed, but is it fair? Because if a girl was running the mile and she got hot and she took off her shirt and she had a sports bra on, that would totally be frowned upon.”
Harrell says that it is not her goal nor the goal of the administration to show a bias towards genders for dressing certain ways.
“What’s important to me is that young women and young men don’t feel judged,” Harrell said. “I want people to feel like this is a professional, comfortable place to be and to work, and I want to teach those skills to people… I know how hard it is to dress as a girl… so I’m trying to show a little kindness there.”
Students don’t disagree with the concept of dress codes, but rather with their extensive restrictive and the reasoning behind them.
“They’re pointing out the wrong reasons,” Farley said. “‘You know how guys are, you don’t want to distract them.’ That’s not my problem. This is my body.”