Junior opposes dress code enforcement

Group protests with T-shirts, posters


Sam St. Clair

Juniors Kypri Cepeda-Johnson and Nevaeh Emerson participate in the dress code protest Nov. 27.

Yonit Krebs and Dani Orloff

As a part of an English class project on activism, junior CC Owens said she coordinated a group of girls to protest the enforcement of Park’s dress code.

According to Owens, a group of 25 girls wore white shirts with the writing ‘my body is not a distraction’ on them to raise awareness for the issue Nov. 27.

“We did posters around the school, and they say, ‘my body is not a distraction.’ We made shirts that say, ‘my body is not a distraction,’ with a black girl on the back with an afro that says ‘black woman unique,’ ‘natural hair rocks,’” Owens said. “We’re basically trying to break the dress code because the dress code has a racist enforcement.”

The project occurred in English teacher Joseph Weber’s class where he said he encouraged students in a unit on activism to find issues that they cared about and do something about them.

“They had to identify an issue in education, and then they had to develop an argument for their position and something that they were going to do about it,” Weber said. “I recommended that that act be as loud as possible and so the girls of their own volition came up with that dress codes in the school are vague and ambiguous and enforced in a discriminatory fashion.”

Junior Aleah Shumann, who participated in the protest, said she felt excited to help Owens bring awareness to this issue.

“She told me it was for a class and how I should wear it, and I said ‘oh my god I’m so proud of you. That’s such a good thing.’” Shumann said. “She chose certain females to wear this (and) it was mostly some females of color. That meant a lot to me.”

Owens said she recognizes students are responsible for breaking the dress code, but she argues that the rules in the student handbook are ambiguous and are not equally enforced.

“The teachers have to fix it because they are the ones enforcing it, and they are the ones telling mainly people of color that their outfits are a distraction,” Owens said. “Some students have to change too because some students are wearing inappropriate stuff, and it’s on both ends, but it’s mainly the teachers because of how they are enforcing it.”

According to Principal Scott Meyers, the administration has focused on conversations regarding the dress code policy, rather than enforcement.   

“The consequences we’ve had to deal with, the ones that I can remember, are foul language or representation of chemical substances,” Meyers said. “I don’t know of many conversations that would get toward, I believe the statement was ‘my body is not a distraction,’” Meyers said.

Shumann said she has been dress coded before and does not feel the policy is executed fairly.  

“I was wearing black leggings, a black crop top and a long button-up shirt. They said that was showing too much skin,” Shumann said. “I was like, ‘Ok’ but every female in here wears a crop top. There’s females walking around here looking crazier than I am. I don’t feel like my outfit was bad. I had pants on. I had a long shirt on. I don’t understand.”

According to Assistant Principal Jessica Busse, she hopes to continue speaking with students on this topic in the future.

“It is a conversation we would like to continue to have about dress code, but it’s not something we are currently addressing,” Busse said.

Weber said the purpose of the protest was to draw attention to the issue that is a problem at Park as well as at other schools.

“Basically (the protest) is about exposure and shining a light on what is happening here and not just here in Park but it’s broader than that,” Weber said. “As a teacher and just watching them go through this process, I am so proud of them and so excited for today and everytime I see a t-shirt walking down the hall I’m remember all the work they put into the process .”

Junior Maya Quinones, a participant in the protest, said she believes without equal enforcement, there is no purpose to Park’s dress code.

“If you’re going to do a dress code, make it equal, otherwise don’t make one at all,” Quinones said.