WILMINGTON, MA — During a recent review of the Parent-Student handbooks for Wilmington High School and Wilmington Middle School, School Committee members David Rasgdale and Jennifer Bryson requested that some changes be made to the handbooks’ current dress code guidelines.
The members were concerned that female students were being singled out by a portion of the guidelines.
Specifically, members asked that the following language be removed from the High School handbook:
- “Students may not wear excessively short clothing, backless clothing, see-through clothing, strapless tops, or other garments that reveal shoulders, midriff, cleavage, or undergarments.”
Members also asked that the following language be removed from the Middle School handbook:
- “Students may not wear excessively short clothing, backless clothing, see-through clothing, strapless tops, or other garments that reveal undergarments.”
“The bullet point about students wearing excessively short clothing. I just want to put it out there that this is something that really just applies to girls, and not to the boys,” said Ragsdale.
“That was not supposed to be in there,” responded Wilmington Middle School Assistant Principal Daniel Faircloth.
“I have to be honest, I thought that was supposed to be removed,” agreed Wilmington Middle School Assistant Principal Jeanette Quirk. “It was supposed to be more of a universal policy and not specific to any gender.”
“I had the same question as David, actually,” said Bryson, who is a proponent of making the dress code guidelines gender neutral. “It would be great if you could bring [revised guidelines] back to use. There’s so much work being done now with dress codes. I just read a policy that talked about how it’s not up to the person wearing the clothes to worry about disrupting or distracting others, but that it’s up to the person not to be distracted…. I think we really need to be careful there with this idea of shaming and all that.”
Bryson emphasized she would like to see the handbooks’ language be gender neutral. She notes the district’s Student Dress Code Policy already is gender neutral and would cover any problem caused by inappropriate female – and male – clothing.
The district’s Student Dress Code Policy can be read below:
STUDENT DRESS CODE
The responsibility for the dress and appearance of the students will rest with individual students and parents.
They have the right to determine how the student will dress providing that attire is not destructive to school property, complies with requirements for health and safety, and does not cause disorder or disruption. The administration is authorized to take action in instances where individual dress does not meet the stated requirements.
This does not mean that student, faculty, or parent groups may not recommend appropriate dress for school or special occasions. It means that students will not be prevented from attending school or a school function, or otherwise be discriminated against, so long as their dress and appearance meet the requirements set forth above.
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