Two Lord Botetourt High School sophomores asked the Botetourt School Board to consider making changes to the middle school and high school dress code during the board’s September meeting in Fincastle.
Parker Hudson and Kierstyn Stanley proposed that the board revise the dress code restrictions and adopt a policy similar to the one Roanoke City’s school division has. They also had a petition with more than 600 signatures also asking for the change. The online petition garnered more than 115 comments from students, parents and teachers, the two students noted.
Hudson told the board that she feels the current policy discriminates against some students because of their body build.
She’s 5’10” tall and said the current policy that does not allow shorts to be more than five inches above the knee essentially means she cannot wear shorts to school.
The students said they feel there is a double standard as well. As an example, they noted that girl volleyball players are allowed to wear spandex shorts in games that violate the dress code— even though the games are school functions.
Many of the comments from the online petition expressed the feeling that the dress code “objectified” women.
“Dress code is used as a way to demean and insult women. It is used to teach women that we should be more focused on the way we dressed than our education, and teaches young boys and girls that boys education is more important and that it is ok to dictate what women do with their body,” student Essence Bowles wrote.
Olivia Ocorr agreed that the policy should be changed. In her petition comments she said,
“I will not be seen as an object that somehow excites boys, that is not my fault. It is theirs for not having self control and since when has a boy ever told a administrator that a girl’s body is distracting them from learning?”
Rebecca Hudson, Parker Hudson’s mother, told the School Board she supported a change to the dress code. “It’s been a topic for quite some time and came to a head when it was enforced more strictly,” she told the board.
She said many of the comments on the petition were about the inconsistency in how the policy is enforced and how it deals with body types.
She said she feels the current dress code targets one gender. “Today, you would think what a woman wears shouldn’t be more important than what she has to say,” she told the board.
As is the School Board policy, members made no comment about the students’ request, but after the meeting three members of the board talked with the students. Chair Michelle Crook told Parker Hudson she understood the challenge of being a tall woman. She, too, is 5’10”.
Crook said in an email after the meeting she thought the students did a nice job presenting their concerns about the dress code.
“School administration is in the process of reviewing the policy. No decision yet but we are taking a look at it,” she said.
In their presentation that was read to the School Board, they said, “Many girls are afraid to wear shorts to school, especially since it is extremely difficult to find shorts that fit the dress code policy. Instructional time is lost when students are pulled out of class for a dress code violation. The student facing the violation then has to call a parent or guardian to bring them a change of clothes, and thus disrupting the parent/guardian at work. When a student has to call their parent or guardian, they lose a large amount of instructional time that wouldn’t be lost if Botetourt County Schools adapted a dress code similar to that of Roanoke City’s.
There appear to be only subtle differences between Botetourt’s dress code and Roanoke City’s.
Roanoke City’s Dress Code requires school-specific dress codes to meet the following guidelines:
• Dress or clothing that disrupts the learning process or presents health or safety problems is prohibited on school property including buses, bus stops, and at school activities.
• Attire that is representative of gang affiliation is prohibited.
• Clothing such as see-through shirts, pants, or skirts, scanty attire and apparel that distracts others from the educational process is prohibited.
• Clothing displaying provocative illustrations, profanity, sexual innuendos, drugs, drug paraphernalia, alcohol, or tobacco products is prohibited.
• Clothing or accessories that would cause injury to others or damage to property is prohibited (i.e. chains, spike bracelets or necklaces, etc.).
• Head coverings for bona fide religious practices are allowed,
• Appropriate footwear is required at all times.
Students must comply with their school’s approved handbook regarding dress regulations that specifies appropriate attires suitable for the age, grade level, stage of development, and physical facility. Failure of any student to comply with this policy will result in disciplinary action.
Roanoke County schools’ dress code has the following general guidelines:
• Short/skirt length should be no higher than mid-thigh.
• Undergarments (including bra straps), cleavage, or midriffs should not be exposed.
• Shoes are required at all times
The following should not be worn in school:
• Sleeves with oversized armholes
• See-through garments
• Form-fitted shorts (e.g. biker shorts)
• Cut offs, torn, or ripped clothing that exposes skin above mid-thigh
• Grossly oversized clothing
• Shirts with spaghetti straps
• Tube tops
• Bedroom slippers
The Botetourt dress code for Grades 6-12 prohibits the wearing of any of the following:
• Any clothing or accessory that contains references to alcohol, drugs, or tobacco
• Any clothing or accessory that contains vulgar, derogatory, violent or suggestive diagrams, pictures, words or slogans that may be interpreted as offensive and/or likely to cause a disruption in the school setting
• Any gang related apparel, accessories, or other trademark that advocates illegal behavior
• Dresses, skirts, shorts, and skorts shorter than 5” (the length of an index card) above the knee cap
• Pants or skirts worn low on the hip so that undergarments or bare skin is exposed
• Leggings, tights, or other tight fitting leg wear that are worn as stand alone pants
(These items can be worn with a top or dress that falls at approximately mid-thigh.)
• Strapless tops or any top with shoulder straps less than 3” wide, the width of an index card
• Tops with necklines that are lower than the straight line that runs from the top of one underarm straight across to the other underarm
• Tops that are cut so short that bare skin in the midriff area is exposed
• Holes in pants above the 5” line acceptable for dresses, skirts, shorts, and skorts
• Hats or non-religious head coverings worn inside the school building
• Sunglasses or other permanently tinted glasses
• Bedroom slippers or pajama/lounging pants