School dress code undergoes makeover

Last month, officials with the Salem-Keizer School District (SKSD) released a brand new dress code, which will be applied for the 2019-20 school year. 

The basic principle for the new code is that certain body parts must be covered for all students at all times, meaning that “clothes must be worn in a way such that genitals, buttocks, breasts and nipples are fully covered with opaque fabric.”

While the District still has specific standards for what’s appropriate and what’s not, the new dress code does allow students to dress more comfortably. 

One of the biggest changes to the code is the list of items students are now allowed to wear to school, which includes: hats, pajamas, tank tops (including spaghetti straps), halter tops and athletic attire. Students will also be allowed to have visible waistbands on undergarments or visible straps on undergarments worn under other clothing — as long as they don’t violate the basic principle. 

McNary High junior Brooklyn Flint is particularly pleased with the new code, which will allow her to dress more freely on warm days.

“I love the new dress code. There’s nothing against showing your belly button or wearing straps. For girls, a lot of the issue is heat, especially in the spring and summer time. Girls want to wear shorts and tank tops when it gets really hot. But they have been told that it’s a distraction to boys, so it’s nice that there’s now a dress code where we can be more comfortable,” Flint said. 

“I have had a lot of friends in the past that would be really concerned when they came to school and they would try and avoid teachers because they don’t want to be caught wearing spaghetti straps. That’s ridiculous.”

Fellow McNary junior Wendy Martinez echoed her classmate’s sentiments. 

“I thought it was cool that the school district decided that it was ok to wear things like tank tops and shorts. We can now wear dresses that are above our knees. It just allows girls to feel a little more comfortable. People used to be scared to wear certain clothing, but now we don’t have to be nearly as worried,” Martinez said. 

The guidelines of the dress code apply to, not only school days, but also any school-related events or activities, such as graduation ceremonies and school dances.

The prior dress code specifically stated that students could not wear clothing that “compromises modesty,” and included items such as tank tops, halter tops, tube tops, muscle shirts, backless tops/dresses or see-through attire as examples of “immodest clothing.”

Shorts and skirts that do not cover the mid-thigh area were also prohibited by the prior dress code — fashion holes in pants that were above the mid-thigh were also not allowed. 

“The groups that it was most targeted on was women and female students. And a lot of the language impacted females more,” said McNary junior Jordan Danner.

Danner, however, wasn’t the only one who felt strongly about the prior dress code. 

Back in June, a group of SKSD students and adults spoke at a board meeting about how the dress code was being applied in a way that disproportionately impacts females. But what they didn’t know was that the District leadership team — made up of principals, assistant principals and department heads — was already working on an updated dress code, based on guidelines from the National Organization of Women, a feminist group with 550 chapters throughout the country.

“Our last dress code hadn’t been updated in six years, and it was time to take a look at it,” said Lillian Govus, the director of community relations and communications with SKSD. “We are optimistic that this will, indeed, help create a better learning environment for our students. It’s fairly simple – you learn better when you’re comfortable.”

Danner also added: 

“Are there some things I personally don’t agree with? Yes, but overall, the language works. There needs to be something people can agree on through all walks of life that come to a public school, and I think this code does a good job of maintaining that balance.”