School Policies Are Officially Out Of Fashion

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Photo by Ashlyn Bautista

We as a student body need to advocate to make the school a place that is both safe and fair.

Watch one teen high school movie or TV show and the likelihood that the idea of school rules, justice and confronting the “system” being a topic of discussion is very high. But this concept is far from fictional. Everywhere students are facing these topics head-on and battling against systems they feel are unfair or out of date.

Take the dress code for example. How many times have you seen a teenage movie talk about dress code and how unfair it is? Just recently a high school in Florida was called out for body-shaming some of their female students and photoshopping their photos to be more “appropriate” without their consent. Not only is this completely unwarranted, but it is also perpetuating both an unfair dress code as well as giving in to the body-shaming and sexualization of female students.

The idea of a dress code has long been debated and criticized mostly for the unfair standards it has for male and female students. Two female students could be wearing the same shirt, but only one of them gets dress coded since it fits her differently. How is that fair? Is that not a subtle form of body-shaming? Or how about the classic spaghetti strap and midriff debate. Many times schools claim it is because it is “inappropriate”, but what is inappropriate about shoulders and a stomach?

Others also say that it is to keep from distracting fellow, often male, students. But shouldn’t we be teaching those students not to sexualize the female students or their peers and learn to respect others? A female student should not have to accommodate her clothing for others, but rather we should teach to respect others and step away from this misogynistic view rather than give into it. Students should not be made uncomfortable due to someone else’s inability to show basic respect. The school encourages us to express and be comfortable with ourselves, so does that not apply to clothing as well?

Obviously, some lines may need to be drawn, but can we not just have a singular, general and fair dress code for all students? I mean it is 2021, and I think after the year we had, it is clear there are bigger and more important issues than someone’s stomach showing.

Another hot topic when it comes to the school system and equity is accountability. So many times kids are “excused” from their actions due to their gender or just the fact they are in high school. How many times have kids been found with drugs on campus? And how many times have they actually been punished or held accountable? Kids are given a “get out of jail free” pass just because they are in high school. But if they were caught in a random parking lot, they would have faced much harsher, legal consequences.

Taking this idea one step further, this also happens a lot when it comes to harassment, gender-based violence and sexual assault. It seems like almost everyone in high school knows someone or a story revolving around sexual assault in high school, but there is such little percent of kids that actually get punished or called out. Not only is this completely unacceptable, but also illegal. So many crimes are pushed under the rug or given petty excuses like “well they are just kids”, “they have such a bright future let’s not ruin it” or the infamous “boys will be boys”.

It seems everyone has a story about kids not being held accountable for their actions or just being given a slap on the wrist for things that, in the real world, would require large, legal actions. Even if students go to the district board or sometimes even the police, the likelihood of the kid being justly punished is low. Sure we are just high schoolers, but that shouldn’t excuse serious crimes like sexual assault and drug possession.

We need to do better. We need punishments appropriate to the crime and real accountability. There should be some sort of strong system between schools, police and government to make sure people feel safe. When kids don’t feel safe or that they are speaking out matters, they remain silent and these acts keep happening and keep being ignored. Students get afraid to speak out because of being bullied, accused of lying, ignored or being singled out.

I know these topics can sometimes seem outlandish, but I promise you they happen every day around you. It may seem scary, but that just adds to the seriousness of the issue. We’ve become complacent and accepted that kids won’t be punished, which is the exact opposite of what we need to be doing. As the #MeToo movement has shown, it is important we stick up for ourselves and make it known that we will no longer tolerate petty excuses and unfair rulings.

It is time that we begin to reassess the school code and disciplinary actions. It’s 2021, but it seems like these rules and processes are decades old. We need to make schools a place where students feel safe and respected. Authorities need to really listen to kids, give them safe places to talk and make them feel like their problems will be confronted, not just pushed aside. If students can begin to feel heard and confident in their school’s code, then hopefully, we can slowly undo these discriminatory and endangering policies.