Students fight for change in dress code

Artwork+by+Isa+Quilter

Isa Quilter

Some Hayes students have been working toward changing the school’s dress code, saying that it unfairly targets females.

Olivia O'Rourke, Staff Writer

Throughout the past month, Hayes students have made an effort to openly express their disapproval in the school dress code policy.
The dress code can be found under the student code of conduct section in the 2021-2022 High School Student Handbook, and prohibits dress that is “bizarre, offensive, unduly revealing, disruptive, distracting, or that which violates health regulations, and/or raises safety issues.” This includes, but is not limited to, tank tops, crop tops, strapless tops, as well as shorts and skirts that are not deemed an appropriate length.
The dress code states that student dress should be clean, neat, and modest.
“In my mind, those are reasonable expectations,” said Jayna McDaniel-Browning, Delaware City School board of education member.
At the same time, the board recognizes that these rules may mean different things to different people.
“It’s debatable,” board president Frances O’Flaherty said. “What is modest to one person might not be modest to another person.”
Many students can sympathize with O’Flaherty’s statement.
“You can be completely covered and dress professionally, but if you’re wearing spaghetti straps you’ll be told to go to the office by a teacher,” junior Sam Toney said.

Collage of student protest fighting dress code at Hayes.
Pictures from the protest held at Hayes. Students were fighting against dress code rules. Photo used with permission of Hannah Davis.

Another reason students have taken issue with the dress code is because they feel that it unfairly targets certain individuals.
“There should be maybe more rules for the guys, and less rules for the girls,” Toney said. “I feel like it’s incredibly strict on the girls for no reason.”
However, the board and administration feel that it’s fair to everyone.
“I think there are some things in there that are more specific to men and some things that are more specific to women, and then there are some that kind of cross to both,” McDaniel-Browning said.
The overall goal is to make sure all students are treated equally.
“The board wants it to be a consistent process for everybody,” Assistant Principal Rex Reeder said.
Fortunately for the students protesting, the school board hears their concerns.
“I think our administrators at the high school are reasonable people and would be willing to listen,” McDaniel-Browning said.
Many board members and administrators said they want to support students in using their voice and trying to make a change.
“I think it’s really great when students have a question and would like things changed or some ideas change,” Reeder said.
The board members and school administrators suggest that if students want to make a change, they should start a conversation about it. Students should come to a consensus about what the new rules should be, and be ready to back it up.
“Everybody has a different opinion and to be honest, I think that’s great,” Reeder said. “I just think we need to talk more, come together and give our concerns and then go for the process and the next process.”
All in all, students have the support they need to fight for a change.
“We hope that students will follow the dress code and if they disagree with it, then they should have a discussion about it,” O’Flaherty said.