For our first project as action in our second trimester humanities class, we were challenged to create an amendment to our own school’s Code of Conduct. We spent the first unit exploring the Arab Spring and the American constitution, even comparing and contrasting the US constitution to Egypt’s old and new constitution.

It was difficult to choose a section to try and change because for the most part, the rules were standard and common sense. I ended up deciding that I believe we should change from a strict billeted list of guidelines for dress code to a paragraph explaining what we aim for and trust the students to make appropriate choices. Below is the old Amendment, my revision as well as a more detailed rationale for this choice.

 

Code of Conduct Amendment
BEFORE:
GCE staff and students strive to create a community which does not judge people based on their dress or fashion, but which values individuality. At the same time, clothing reflects the educational environment and therefore should not be offensive, provocative, or disruptive to instruction. Students are encouraged to dress in a manner which reflects their individuality and self-expression, but which is also appropriate in an educational setting. All students are expected to dress and groom themselves neatly and modestly in clothes that are appropriate for an academic environment.

Whenever there is a question about suitability of a student’s attire, each and every teacher is empowered to take responsibility in calling that student’s attention, documenting the interaction and informing the Behavioral Dean. If a teacher does not feel comfortable about reinforcing the Dress Code, he/she should still inform the Behavioral Dean. If, after the interventions of teacher & Behavioral Dean, there is still any question about the suitability of a student’s attire, it is the final authority of the Director as to whether a young man’s or young lady’s attire or general appearance is acceptable.

*Please note the following rules and guidelines when selecting clothing for school.

1. Pants, skirts, and shorts must sit on or above the hips. As a general rule, any undergarment should not be visible at school. As a guideline, dresses, skirts and/or shorts must be at least mid-thigh in length.
2. No strapless tops, halter tops, or see-through tops. Shirts should be at least waist length.Undergarments, including bra straps and sports bras should not to be visible.
3. Holes, rips, or tears, in any garment, are acceptable as long as they do not reveal
undergarments.
4. No gloves, bandanas, head wraps, headphones (unless it was permitted in class by the instructor) or sunglasses are permitted to be worn during class or GCE group activities. If any of these have to be worn for specific reasons, a written letter supporting such exception should be presented to the DC by the students parent/guardian. NOTE: head garments are allowed as long as eyes are cleared and it does not disrupt the learning environment.
5. Sunglasses are not allowed at school.
6. Headphones are allowed in school and may be used in class if a teacher explicitly authorizes
their use.
7. Open-toe shoes are allowed, except on Field Experiences.
8. Clothing may not advocate or promote acts of violence, self-destruction, alcohol and drugs consumption, racism, xenophobia, religious intolerance, sexual or promiscuous behavior. Clothing which contributes to the creation of a hostile, offensive, or intimidating environment based on race, color, religion, national origin, age, disability, gender, social status, or sexual orientation is prohibited.

We support the expressive use of clothing from your culture and/or religion and, if for any reasons, you feel you are not being given enough freedom in the dress code, we encourage you to self-advocate and contact the behavioral dean.

Note: Accommodations on the basis of a student’s religious beliefs or medical conditions can be made. The DC can exempt a student from complying with part or all of this policy when compliance would impose a substantial burden due to a medical condition or religious belief. The DC may request from a parent or guardian a written statement explaining the medical condition or the religious belief and how it is affected by the dress code. The DC may also make reasonable accommodations for students to comply with the standardized dress code based on financial hardship or for new students enrolling in the school.

AFTER:
GCE staff and students strive to create a community which does not judge people based on their dress or fashion, but which values individuality. At the same time, clothing reflects the educational environment and therefore should not be offensive, provocative, or disruptive to instruction. Students are encouraged to dress in a manner which reflects their individuality and self-expression, but which is also appropriate in an educational setting. All students are expected to dress and groom themselves neatly and modestly in clothes that are appropriate for an academic environment.

WHY:
GCE’s dress code should be condensed to just the first paragraph. I believe that it could be simplified to just that section and that would provide enough structure and room for creativity and accountability. It transfers the responsibility from a bullet point list to the individuals to uphold the image they want for their community. As a school that stresses the importance of individuality and diversity, we should trust the students to make appropriate choices. I don’t believe that given the chance there would be any situations of inappropriate dress. I believe this only further develops the skills that we as a school have built ourselves upon.
The US Constitution does not mention dress or attire within itself, but the Supreme Court has decided that this falls under our right to a freedom of expression in cases such as Cohen v. California. While GCE has the right to enforce a reasonable dress code, we should honor the choices of our students and trust that they can make responsible choices.
In the Arab Spring, many people are fighting for the freedom to express themselves as they see fit. Many women of Islamic culture are unhappy with the constraints placed upon them under Islamic law and the government. Sahar, a 30 year old woman woman from, was arrested for wearing a shirt that had sleeves that did not cover her forearms. “I felt disrespected and insulted. I’m a grown woman. I can decide what I can wear. I can make these decisions myself.” (Rezaian 2012) Iranian society would make huge strides in women’s rights if they allowed the women to choose their own clothes. People should all be allowed to express themselves through their apparel, regardless of gender.
In the beginning and end of school it is frustrating to wake up and not be able to throw on a pair of shorts like boys get to. Fashion and society over the course of time have decided girls shorts are much shorter. The dress code penalizes girls for wearing clothes that are perfectly normal for warm weather. Our dress code should not eliminate choices that are not inappropriate because thighs are distracting. If distraction is the problem, then instead of avoiding objectification and limiting options, we should teach how to respect people regardless of what they wear. A halter top is not the problem and generalizing that all halter tops will cause a classroom to be unproductive is not only inaccurate, but also does nothing to solve any problems with attention or focus in a classroom. A dress code is supposed to make sure that the clothes being worn represent a community we can be proud of and that don’t distract or offend people
GCE should give their students full power and responsibility to determine what is appropriate for school attire to teach the lessons they already aim to instill in their community.

REZAIAN, Jason. (2012) “Struggle over what to wear in Iran” Washington Post.
https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/middle_east/struggle-over-what-to-wear-in-iran/2012/07/21/gJQAbkspzW_print.html