Ladies who like wearing short shorts, miniskirts, sleeveless dresses, tank tops, or belly shirts will no longer be allowed to wear such clothing this school year. Likewise, boys will not be able to sport wife-beaters or expose boxers above low-slung plants without repercussion. The punishment: oversized grey t-shirts will cover scandalous outfits, and out-to-lunch privileges will be revoked for the day. The parents of second-time violators will have to pay a visit to the school. Here’s what some students and teachers are saying about the new dress code policy.
Stanlee Chang, junior
It’s really unnecessary, even slightly unreasonable. If their [the administration’s] goal is to create a better, less distracting learning environment, their solution should not be a uniform policy. Students who do poorly in school will continue to do poorly even if their peers are dressed “appropriately.” I don’t think my grades will go up if I see less biceps and pecs.
Erick Wong, Senior
This policy really diminishes the voices of the students in Stuy. We aren’t doing anything wrong, so I don’t think that the administration has the right to stop us from dressing the way we choose. These requirements are ridiculous because students should be free to express themselves in whatever way they want. Denying us the right to be creative with our wardrobe is enforcing the idea of conforming. Even though the dress code does not affect me directly, I would not change my wardrobe to avoid punishment. My wardrobe is me. The policy definitely seems impractical since it mainly targets girls. The fact that they are singling out a specific demographic does not seem at all fair to me.
Claudia Yau, senior
Even from an academic standpoint, the policy eliminates a necessary learning opportunity. Before the policy was written, the way we dressed was a daily decision that reflected the way we wanted our peers to respond to us. Realizing that one style of dress is appropriate in a specific setting is an important skill for our futures, and if anything, social pressure served as a check on what we wore. Now, rather than deciding, either on our own or with encouragement from teachers or deans, to dress a certain way, we will do so to avoid punishment. The backwardness of the policy is especially clear when we consider Stuyvesant’s mission statement: “The Stuyvesant High School philosophy is that each student is […] a necessary partner in a program established for his/her future in a democratic society. With the cooperation of parents, the staff nurtures the developing awareness and responsibilities of each individual.” Ultimately, the lesson learned with the policy is: “Follow the rules because your out-to-lunch privilege is something you want to keep. Also follow the rules because having parents come into the school is bad,” rather than, “Dressing appropriately earns respect from teachers and peers.” The latter lesson is always less likely to be achieved with a written policy. For instance, sleeveless tops can look classy. In fact, some teachers wear sleeveless dresses and they look perfectly presentable. Even if this really were a problem, the policy is not the way to fix it.
If school officials are convinced that it is necessary to limit freedom without giving us a say in it, at least make the effort to help us understand why. The whole policy sounds like a mix between “we know what’s good for you better than you do” and “because I say so,” and I can see why that’s frustrating in an environment where we expect to be treated less childishly. We’re able to juggle AP exams, college apps, heaps of homework, regular exams, extracurricular activities, social lives, and stay awake for class. So we’re adults and responsible for those, but we can’t be trusted to hide our undergarments when picking our outfits.
Jennifer Zhou and Erica Chan, Junior Class President and Vice President
While we understand that revealing undergarments and shirts with inappropriate sayings can be distracting, we disagree with the other requirements. When summertime comes around, the temperature gets ridiculously high. Especially with a 3500+ [student] body running around a ten-story building, sometimes more revealing clothing is reasonable. Also, we feel that suppressing our chance to express ourselves during our precious teenage years can affect our creativity and the way we think in the future. Overall, we think that some of the requirements of the policy are too harsh, and could possibly lead to many students failing to obey it. If the dress policy is implemented, there should be different levels of consequences depending on how far one opposes the policy. The faculty and the student body should make a compromise so that we do not see half of the student body wearing a grey shirt everyday. If you’re showing a bit of your shoulder, the administration can call you out on it. If, however, your shirt is showing half your stomach and your shorts are too short, harsher punishments are reasonable.
We definitely care about this issue because it affects the whole student body. It directly affects the way we dress and present ourselves. When Stuyvesant students react poorly to specific changes, it is up to the caucus of each grade to find a solution that can fulfill every student’s needs and wants. We hope that students who oppose the policy can rely on the Student Union to help make a compromise with the administration on this issue.
Aminah Sallam, junior
The school is completely justified in setting boundaries on what students can and cannot wear. Oftentimes, people forget that school is an institution of learning and not a place where people are interested in how cute you look. I honestly don’t care much about the policy itself because it doesn’t affect me directly. I’ve never worn clothes that would be prohibited by the policy. Further, I think that by forcing girls to dress more conservatively, we’re forcing the Stuyvesant community to appreciate girls for their intelligence and personalities, and not just how they look. The policy does not prevent students from expressing their “individuality.” All the school asks is for the students to express their “individuality” in a far less revealing, and appropriate way. If this rule precludes your ability to “find yourself” because you can’t express yourself properly, then you can always wait until after school or days where school is not in session to “find yourself” by dressing in the manner that you deem appropriate in order to reach that end.
Lori Gutman, junior
It’s limiting and unreasonable, especially in the summer when a lot of rooms aren’t air-conditioned. Sitting in hot classrooms from 8 to 3:30 is already bad enough, and having to wear a lot of clothing in 80 plus degree weather can be unbearable for some people. Nonetheless, I probably won’t change the way I dress because of the new consequences. A large grey t-shirt doesn’t exactly scare me, and I don’t always go out for lunch either. I’m sure I’m not the only person who feels this way, so these punishments might not really make a difference.
Rachel Heineman, junior
I don’t really mind the policy, but that’s just because it doesn’t conflict with any of the clothes I personally choose to wear. I guess I’m against it for the sake of my peers. The kids who wear clothes that violate the dress code are going to be the kids who are either passionate about fashion or passionate about usurping authority, and, either way, sticking them in an ugly grey t-shirt is going to breed resentment far more than obedience. I’d be supportive of a student group that wanted to work professionally with the administration towards compromise.
Max Liebeskind, junior
The administration needs to be more pragmatic and must not try to manipulate the fashion of our time. Although it is acceptable to ban revealing clothing, the regulation on shorts is impractical because long shorts generally don’t exist for girls. Furthermore, short-shorts are not explicitly inappropriate the way that revealing clothing clearly is.
We don’t need to push back against the administration, but we have to explain to the administration the insensibility of its policy. An acceptable policy would have to take into account societal norms and only restrict fashion choices that are blatantly unacceptable.
Linda Luu, junior
I can understand why students would be against the policy, but I do not care about what the dress code is. Although the way we dress is a representation of who we are, we are still in an educational environment, and there is a standard of what is appropriate for school, and we should follow it. We can still show our individuality. We just need to make sure that the fit and length of certain clothing is appropriate. I think the grey t-shirt punishment is a bit much. Not only will students find a way to mock it or get around it, but the policy sounds like it’s limiting individual style completely.
Jane Handorff, junior
Though I can understand some of the rules, others just seem impractical. It is going to be very uncomfortable to not be able to wear tank tops in the warmer months. I also think that parents in general can be the judge of what is and isn’t appropriate. However, I’d definitely rather change my clothes than repeatedly lose my out-to-lunch privileges.
Many kids are going to have to go out and buy new clothes and I don’t think that a public school can really ask this of its students. Lastly, Stuy is full of the most hardworking kids that I’ve ever met who actually enjoy learning every day, and I don’t think that this dress code is necessary or that we need more limits than we already have. I feel bad about being concerned about a superficial issue when there are more important things to think about. All in all, I am against it.
Kristyn Pluchino, chemistry teacher
I am in favor of the dress code policy. I think the requirements are very reasonable. The majority of Stuyvesant students come to school dressed appropriately; however, I have seen students, especially in warmer weather, who look as though they are dressed to go to the beach instead of school. While it may not prevent learning, it can be a distraction in the classroom. I think these punishments are appropriate. The dress code is very simple and straightforward and is really just asking students to respect the learning environment at Stuyvesant. Seeing a fellow student wearing an over-sized, grey t-shirt will hopefully make most students think twice before they wear something distasteful or overly revealing to school. I like the idea of getting parents involved. Most parents understand the importance of dressing appropriately for an environment, but in some cases parents do not see what their child is leaving home wearing. If I were a parent, I would want it brought to my attention that my child was dressing inappropriately at school, as it does not send a very positive message about who they are.
Megan Wong, sophomore
Due to the fact that Stuy is portrayed as an ideal high school, we should dress to live up to its reputation, not to bring it crashing down. These requirements are quite reasonable, due to the fact that the school is putting an effort into trying to make us look respectable to teachers, staff members, as well as our classmates and peers. The punishments are appropriate and would make a difference. I would change my clothing choices if I were to endure the punishment because it would force me to realize that putting my toe out of line would not result in good consequences. It’s pretty practical as far as I can tell. It’s not like they are making you go home or suspending you. The policy is an overall rule that is trying to create a friendly school environment for everyone to feel comfortable in. Students could choose whether or not to follow it, and whatever fashions of clothing to put on.
Vera Pertsovskaya, sophomore
Schools teach students that our country is a free one. But when school boards make students wear what they tell them too, it curtails the students’ freedom. I know that if the school administration is indeed serious about this dress code, then I will have to change a lot of my wardrobe to fit with the school’s policies. Many parents in the Stuyvesant community may not have the money to buy new clothing for their children, so those children will either to have to go to school in their old clothing and face the disciplinary actions or wear clothing that is not appropriate for the season.
Danielle Polin, sophomore
It’s the thought that we’re being oppressed that’s the most demoralizing. To begin with, I don’t think it’s much of a problem. Other peoples’ clothes don’t affect the way everyone else learns. The problem with these punishments is that it makes seem as if we were violating a uniform code in a private school. The way people dress shouldn’t have such a severe consequence in a school with previously no dress code. The policy might be practical if its goal were to hide people’s shoulders, but it won’t make the school environment any better, and definitely won’t help learning. Also, it primarily targets girls since only girls wear tank tops and short skirts.
Our clothing is our choice. It’s one of those nice things about public school—everyone is allowed to be different. Also, it gets really hot around May and June. Are shoulders really that distracting that we can’t be afforded the luxury to not sweat all day?
Betty Yu, junior parent
I agree with the section of the policy that states that phrases and sayings on apparel must be in good taste, and that midriffs, lower backs, undergarments, and shoulders are not to be exposed. However, I feel that the topic of skirts, shorts, and dresses is a little too strict. I do not believe [inappropriate dress] is an issue at Stuyvesant. Having to wear a large grey t-shirt is a little ridiculous. The rest of the disciplinary actions are fine.
Stephen Soiffer, junior parent
It’s too strict and unreasonable. Who will be the arbiter of whether phrases and saying[s] are in good taste? The hemline requirement is silly and unenforceable. What’s wrong with shoulders? The large grey T-shirt is a dumb idea. Might as well become a visible marker of dissent and nonconformity—desirable rather than a punishment.
Victoria and Shawn Duncan, junior parents
Both male and female students can dress in ways that call an inappropriate level of attention to themselves and therefore would be distracting. This dress code is an attempt to minimize anything that would distract Stuyvesant students from their learning environment. I would not have itemized everything specified in the dress code, but I understand what the administration is trying to accomplish. Stuy students are smart. The punishments identified give our students the opportunity to correct how they dress on their own before involving their parents. I would like to believe that the awareness raised from being identified as non-compliant would be enough for a student to realize that he or she could be distracting fellow classmates from learning in the classroom.
All interviews were through e-mail.