In Asheboro, North Carolina on June 3, Ever Lopez was denied his high school diploma because he draped a Mexican flag over his gown during his graduation ceremony. As Lopez prepared to shake hands with the principal, he was stopped and told to remove the flag. He didn’t. Lopez stated that he wore the Mexican flag to represent his Mexican roots and honor his heritage. However, the school withheld his diploma because he had violated the dress code and “disrupted” the ceremony.
After 12 years of hard work and dedication, to have your diploma revoked because of a dress code violation is quite frankly ridiculous.
This incident brings light to the need of dress code reform. In the Instagram poll conducted this week that asked, “Do you think the GACS dress code needs to be reformed?” out of the 43 respondents, 89% of the students agreed that the dress code is in need of further development.
Schools continue to implement several dress codes that are outdated and quite frankly illogical. One particular rule that I find very outdated is prohibiting students from coloring their hair. Having colored hair doesn’t affect a student’s intellectual abilities, nor does it make you unprofessional. Society created social norms for a professional workplace, why shouldn’t we be allowed to change those norms? Students should be allowed to express themselves through their hair however they please.
Kylie Jones, 17, a senior at Greater Atlanta Christian School, says “I feel like we should be allowed to dye our hair any color.” Another senior at Greater Atlanta Christian, Diana Deleon, 17, says “GAC shouldn’t tell me what to do with my own body end of story, that goes for piercings too.”
Other dress code rules include the skirt length requirement. Unfortunately, specific dress codes often target female students, especially ones with certain body types. Which is exemplified in the skirt length rules. Schools implement certain skirt length requirements such as the “three inches above the knee rule” or the so-called “fingertips rule”, where your skirt must reach where your hands naturally fall.
For instance, I also attend Greater Atlanta Christian School, which is a faith-based private school that makes the female student body abide by “the three inches rule” where your skirt can’t be shorter than three inches above your knee. However, the skirts aren’t tailored to each individual body type, so the rule isn’t practical and targets girls with a specific body type. Sofia Rama, 17, a senior at Greater Atlanta Christian School says, “Our uniforms are catered to a specific body type which not everyone has.”
But these dress code rules aren’t limited to private schools. According to the Drew Charter School handbook, shorts and skirts can’t be worn more than three inches above the knee. At Sutton Middle School, three inches is also all that can be uncovered above the knee. The Loganville High School dress code states that while all dress and skirt lengths must be no shorter than three inches above the knee, all shorts and gym shorts can’t be shorter than five inches above the knee.
While there are some dress code similarities throughout public and private schools in Georgia, the rules do vary. For instance, the South Atlanta High School dress code states that female students may wear skirts at mid-thigh length.
One reason that schools give for employing a dress code is to achieve professionalism. China Moody, 17, a senior at Greater Atlanta Christian says, “When it gets cold, the uniforms aren’t warm enough, especially for females.”
Why should schools sacrifice student’s comfort for perceived professionalism?
Both public and private institutions will implement dress codes to eliminate distractions in the classroom. The notion that girls are a distraction to males in the classroom is absurd. It reinforces the idea that a woman’s education is less important than a man’s education, especially if a girl has to be pulled out of class for a boy’s sake. Instead of shaming girls for the bodies they were born with, maybe schools should teach boys to have respect. This should no longer be the female’s burden, but rather the males on whether or not he has basic self-control. Why should female students be penalized for wearing a tank-top out of fear that our shoulders are deemed too distracting?
Whether you are Ever Lopez walking across stage with a Mexican flag during graduation or a student protesting the skirt length requirement, pressure can result in positive change which is exemplified by Lopez eventually receiving his high school diploma. Nevertheless, schools need to reform their dress codes in order to adapt to a progressing society.
VOX Media Cafe reporter Kristen Thompson, 16, attends Greater Atlanta Christian School