Instead of taking away rights, teach respect

Published 9:41 am Thursday, April 9, 2015

Since the weather is warming up, I thought I’d touch on the topic of high school dress codes again. Recently, there has been a stir over social media concerning girls being suspended for speaking out against dress codes. Locally, a girl from New Richland was suspended for wearing a sweater over her outfit, along with a sign on her back which read “Forced to wear this because men can’t control themselves.” I commend that young lady for speaking up.

Something I never understood in middle school and high school was the dress code. If you think about it, it is mostly directed at girls. Sure, guys aren’t allowed to wear shirts with inappropriate things on it, but that’s about it. Girls, on the other hand, have a whole set of rules to follow when getting dressed in the morning.

This year’s dress code at Albert Lea High School is as follows:

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“The purpose of a dress code is for students to be dressed appropriately to encourage learning. Good judgment should be used in choosing clothing to be worn to school. Students should avoid attention-seeking outfits that are offensive or violate the comfort level of others. You will be asked to change the clothing or be sent home to get appropriate attire.

Inappropriate clothing includes, but is not limited to, the following:

1. Short shorts, mini-skirts, short skirts, muscle shirts with cut-out sides, spaghetti straps, tops that expose the midriff and/or cleavage, and other clothing that is not in keeping with community standards.

2. Pants and shirts should be worn to cover all undergarments, which includes underwear and bra straps.

3. Clothing that promotes alcohol or tobacco or their use will not be accepted. Clothing with obscenities or sexual connotations are forbidden.

4. Students are prohibited from wearing caps, hats, hoods, or cloth coverings (such as bandanas) during the academic school day (8:00 a.m. to 2:50 p.m.).

5. Footwear must be worn in the building at all times due to state health mandates.

6. Any clothing or actions deemed to be gang-related will result in suspension.

The administration (or appointed designee) will be the final arbiter of what is appropriate dress.”

OK, so let’s break this down, starting with item number one. Short shorts are aimed at girls. Never have I seen a guy wear short shorts to school unless it was for a spirit related dress-up day. Unless a girl’s rear end is hanging out of her shorts, why does it matter how short they are? If my thigh is showing is it going to distract your learning? Same thing with skirts. Muscle shirts can be aimed at both males and females. I’ve been known to wear muscle shirts when working out. I think that rule is fairly understandable. Spaghetti strap tank tops are forbidden. I hate to break it to you, ALHS, but sometimes it’s pretty darn hot in that building. Is seeing my shoulder going to distract you from your learning, too? And what is meant by “community standards?” In our community, people wear all kinds of crazy things. Just sit in Walmart for a few minutes. You’d be amazed at what some people leave the house in.

Number two is pretty obvious. Boys, pull your pants up. No one cares what color plaid your boxers are. Same goes for number three. As I mentioned before, I understand this. Clearly if you’re not old enough to be using tobacco or alcohol products legally, you probably shouldn’t be wearing clothing that promotes it to school.

Number four raises a few questions for me. Sure, it is common etiquette to remove a hat when you’re indoors. Hoods? Just as it can get warm in the high school, sometimes it also feels like an ice box. Let students wear their hoods if its chilly. Bandanas? Really? It’s not like a gang is going to form just because someone wears a bandana. Shoes and gang-related items are also pretty common sense for a high school to have put in their dress code.

My main concern is with the first item in the dress code. Also, more and more schools are banning yoga pants and leggings. Why? As a woman, I can tell you that I wear leggings and yoga pants more than any other type of pants. They’re comfortable. Leggings can even be dressed up.

I think that instead of taking away a girl’s rights to dress herself, we should be teaching boys to respect girls. Obviously, guys are going to be the ones distracted by the way a girl dresses. But guess what? No matter how a female dresses, males are still going to have sexual thoughts. It’s part of life, especially at the age of going through puberty. Why should girls have to be the ones covering up to hide from the minds of young guys?


Albert Lea High School graduate Erin Murtaugh is a first-year student at Rochester Community and Technical College. She can be reached at