Madeline Brennan

Caught red handed! Alexis McCormack, Michael Hamilton, Dylan Richmond, Jeanette Mercado, Jennifer Camargo, and Ashley Felipe pose against the wall outside of Mr. Brennan’s classroom. All of their ensembles could be considered dress code violations under PHS rules. Hamilton and Richmond have altered their ensembles to violate the code. “I have a great sense of style,” Hamilton says shortly after the picture is taken.

In 1969, three students living in Des Moines, Iowa, wore black armbands to protest the Vietnam War. These students were suspended from school on the grounds that it was not school appropriate and that the school had a right to suspend or punish students on these grounds. This would have been the end of the story, but these students fought back.


They took their case to the courts, in which they argued that their suspension violated their right to free speech. The case went all the way to the Supreme Court, who ruled that the suspension was, in fact, justified. It was this Supreme Court case that established the right of a school to have a dress code. 


Fifty years since that decision, the dress code remains a hot topic for students across the country. However, unlike fifty years ago, the controversy surrounding the dress code is not about free speech, but about gender. 


Two years ago, male students at San Benito High School in California protested their dress code by wearing women’s tops that their female cohorts had been banned from wearing because the shirts in question exposed the girl’s shoulders. This element of the shirt caused the school administration there to deem the shirts “inappropriate.”

Have you ever been sent to the office about your outfit?

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So, does the dress code at PHS discriminate against female students?


At PHS, many different members of both the student body and the faculty have various opinions on the dress code.


Olivia Brennan, junior, has a mixed opinion on whether or not our dress code is sexist. 


“It is because obviously it’s geared more towards girls and even sometimes specifically says girls when going over it, but at the same time guys don’t normally wear crop tops or super short shorts.” 


Brandon Pickle, also a junior, says that the dress code “is very gender specific on a lot of things.” He goes on to say that he has been questioned by teachers about what he was wearing and whether or not it was appropriate, but never sent to the office for a dress code violation.


Mrs. Taylor, a science teacher at PHS, says the dress code is a necessary part of student life. 


“I understand why we have a dress code. I think if we didn’t there would definitely be those who pushed and wore things that draw attention away from where their focus needs to be,” said Taylor.  She goes on to say that she believes that PHS has “one of the more lenient” dress codes in Leflore County.


She explains that the teachers are not given gender specific instructions when the dress code is explained to them at the beginning of the year. 


“It’s less of what we should look for and it’s more just a reminder that we all need to be on the same page as teachers because students do really well with the same thing, a routine,” said Taylor.  She elaborates that if every teacher holds the same standards concerning the dress code, there are generally less issues with it.


When I ask if she feels the dress code is geared more towards female students, she says that it is but that: “I think that just being aware that both genders need to abide by the dress code would be a great start for teachers to get away from that stereotype.”


Brennan says that “people aren’t looking for it” when it comes to male dress code violations. “Last year I really do feel like people were looking for [male dress code violations].”


Taylor goes on to say that when she dress codes a student she tries to do so in the most respectful way possible. “I try to catch them, you know ‘Hey, can you stay after class? I need to talk to you for just a minute.’ And I try to always give them an option of: ‘Did you bring a shirt? Is there a T-shirt?’ Or you know something [like that].”


For Brennan, her experience was much different. “I was walking down the hallway to the office before first hour when I was stopped and told to go to a closet and find some pants to put on.” When she was dress coded she was wearing a pair of athletic shorts and a sweatshirt. 

Do you feel like the dress code is gender biased?

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In the end, it seems that the dress code at PHS will stay the same for quite some time. The key for both teachers and students cooperating and having a better understanding of the dress code seems clear: teachers should make a more conscious effort at looking for dress code violations by both male and female students, while students should always make an effort to dress school appropriately and avoid outfits they feel might violate the dress code.


In his book Divided & Conquered, Mokokama Mokhonoana says: “What to wear: an employee chooses. How to dress: his employer chose.” The same can be said for the dress code policy at PHS. Students are still free to wear whatever they like, as long as what they’re wearing does not violate the rules.