Pioneer’s ‘controversial’ dress code has students speaking out against sexism in schools

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Ava Walker

Many Pioneer students have questioned the benefits of the school dress code.

Recent conflict with the Pioneer dress code has caused a number of students to call for a change, with some saying that its policies are “outdated” and “sexist.” 

Paul Weinhold, a senior, and a group of other Pioneer students have also taken strides in protesting the dress code, creating a survey that was spread throughout the Pioneer community. This survey asked for student opinion on the dress code, specifically about levels of distraction and respect with clothing. 

“With our survey we created, we are hoping to accomplish support and input from students,” said Weinhold, “Using this survey as a way to see how many students at Pioneer are actually affected by the current dress code gives us insight into how we can make our argument for a better one to be put in place.” 

With the return of in-person learning at Pioneer High School, students say they are finding themselves questioning many rules that have been reinforced for the 2021-2022 school year. Freshmen and sophomores alike entered the building for the first time, as sophomores attended their previous high school year online. The re-introduction of a large body of students suggested a need for administrators to elucidate many school-wide rules at Pioneer. Thus, many students were presented with the dress code for the first time. 

On September 7th, Principal Tracey Lowder addressed the Pioneer community with an announcement reminding students of the established dress code. Many students took issue with Lowder’s announcement, especially when he said “respect yourself” regarding clothing choices.

 “What a person wears doesn’t correlate to how much they respect themself,” said Joey Montri, a Pioneer senior.

The Pioneer dress code can be found on the AAPS website.  A few of the deemed contentious guidelines for the code include rules such as “undergarments should not be visible at any time,” or “shirts and/or tops should not expose the midriff area in the front or back,” as well as a section stating that when a student stands with arms straight down by their sides “the bottom of their shorts, skirts, and/or dresses should reach their fingertips or below.”

Many students say some of these regulations unfairly target feminine-presenting students. 

I feel that the Pioneer dress code is completely outdated and should be seen as irrelevant at this point,” said Montri. “The dress code is nothing but a hypocritical, shameful rhetoric of a past that we claim to have moved past.”

Senior Anna Kaganov echoes this sentiment. “It is not my responsibility to dress in a way that makes others comfortable with my presence,” she said.

Teachers and administrators have long claimed that revealing clothing can cause distractions in the classroom. Senior Rome McCoy says that he finds this ridiculous.

“If I see your stomach, I see your stomach. It’s not distracting. We’ve all been to a pool before!” he said.

Others have pointed out issues regarding the dress code that haven’t garnered as much discussion.

“Not only is the dress code sexist, classist, and discriminates against minority groups, it also holds a fatphobic point of view,” says senior Nora Gillard, “I find that people who are skinnier than I am, as someone who is more curvy, are dress coded less than me, and I cannot control how tight clothes are on me.”

Marisa Jordan, a senior, said dress codes can be far more damaging than simply limiting free expression.

“The dress code perpetuates rape culture. Students are being held responsible for others’ responses and reactions, much like how rape victims are blamed for making their attackers lose control,” she said.

After the emphasis on the dress code, and its subsequent disapproval, several Pioneer students have taken on the responsibility of raising awareness to promote change. 

Montri created gold arm bands to demonstrate the grievances of the student body. 

“With the arm bands, I’m hoping we can show the administration our discontent and show other students, especially the underclassmen, how to protest via a peaceful demonstration,” they said. “I also believe that if enough students participate in this protest, the administration will have no choice other than to reform or abolish the dress code.”

While many feel negatively towards the current dress code, students find themselves divided on whether Pioneer needs one at all. 

 “I feel some aspects of the dress code are obviously there for a reason, for example, slang terms on clothing, heavily revealing clothes,” said Weinhold. “Other than that, to me the dress code is outdated, sexist towards women, and perpetuates hateful cultures such as homophobia and slut shaming.”

Tiffan Zheng, a senior, shares a similar opinion. 

“The dress code should only be against things like hate speech on [students] attire,”he said. “If it’s not directed towards a specific group, I think it’s fine.”

Senior Ceci Maixner expresses resentment towards the administration’s role in dress coding. “The dress code itself is not too restrictive, however how these issues are being handled needs to be reformed,” she said.

Others hope for the complete abolishment of the dress code. 

“I’m hoping to get the dress code abolished,” said Montri. “I think that the dress code is outrageously outdated and harmful to women, minorities, and the lower class.” she continues. “A well off white male at our school would never be coded.”

Pioneer students continue to question the dress code and its benefits. Many will continue to fight and protest, hoping to enact change in policy. 

“What is appropriate for school is completely subjective,” said Jordan. “So why do a select group of adults from a more oppressive and conservative generation get to dictate what we wear on our bodies?”

McCoy adds that he believes that the dress code is more for the adults in the building than the students. “There’s no point., It’s not really distracting to anyone,” he said. “Who is it benefiting?”