By Corri Mekkelson
Frederick Community College Feminist Club held an event called “Conversation with Young Women Challenging FCPS Dress Code” on Sept. 12, 2016. Dr. Jill Schultz, a sociology; and women’s studies professor, co-sponsored by Katherine Struck. The guests of the event were young women from our Frederick County Public Schools, who ranged in ages from 13 to 17.
Struck said, “The FCPS Dress Code Event went off better than I could have anticipated. I was expecting, maybe 5 or 6 girls, instead we had about 13. Their drive and motivation was inspiring and I’m excited to hear that follow up in the spring. It’s clear to me that whatever they decide to do with their lives, they’re going to excel at it.”
The Feminist Club at FCC works to promote social, political and economic equality for women, men, girls and boys. The discussion started by getting the FCPS attendees opinions on the dress code at their schools, how they viewed the dress code, and how they felt discriminated against by the administration because of the way they’re forced to dress..
All eight students interviewed had similar perspectives on the current dress code. They said they found the dress code to be sexist and geared toward women. They argued the dress code should be more lenient. They also said they don’t agree with the dress code because it promotes rape culture. The club members said the dress code isn’t fair because it blames girls for being victimized by sexual assault on the basics on their clothing.
FCPS attendees said their schools enforce the dress code by informing all students in the beginning of each new year with a presentation stating the dress code and the consequences for not following it. All the girls stated administration is supposed to follow steps for addressing the dress code. First, school officials privately pull the student aside. Second, they give the student the option to change into their gym clothes or have a parent bring a change of clothes. Lastly, they provide the student with a yellow t-shirt to cover up. FCPS attendees at the FCC Feminist Club event said they find the shirts to be offensive because they humiliate them in front of their peers.
“The policy is talk to the student privately, ask if they have any other clothing available, and the last option is to give out the yellow t-shirt, but that policy isn’t being followed,” said FCPS student Abby Carioti.
The school officials are not following the dress code policy the correct way because they want students to learn their lesson or prove a point that this is your consequence, that there are no other options.
Those who attended the Feminist Club event say the dress codes are different between boys and girls. They all agreed that there are more rules that are geared toward women in the public schools’ dress than men. The FCPS attendees say that schools claim the dress code is “gender neutral” but these students do not believe that is true.
FCPS attendee Sophie Beers- Arthur says, “Supposedly it’s gender neutral, but rules mainly are toward women clothing and only a few toward men.” These two girls and the others have done the research on the dress code to learn this information. For example, finding no showing of the shoulders.
FCPS student attendees questioned the need for the dress code. They said they trust that boys and girls have enough respect for themselves and common sense to dress appropriately, and dress in whatever they feel comfortable in wearing.
“Everyone should know the boundaries,” said FCPS student Joee Folb.
Additionally, FCPS students said not many students are aware of where they can access the dress code. The attendees also said it’s difficult to access because students need to ask for a specific code to reach it.
“It is published on our school website and at the beginning of the school year the school holds an assembly regarding the dress code,” said FCPS student Lauren Hall. FCPS student Sophie Plaschae added, “It’s difficult to find.
After the successful event, Dr. Jill Schultz and student Katherine Struck hope to have a follow up event on the dress code in spring of 2017 with the FCPS students.