Abilene High School Principal Ben Smith brought up the possibility of reviewing and (if needed) revising the school’s dress code Monday evening.
He spoke up about the issue at the Unified School District 435 Board of Education meeting Monday evening.
Smith said that he does not necessarily believe the dress code is in need of immediate revision. He said he just wants to ensure it’s up-to-date.
“I just want to make sure that it’s not (outdated),” he said after Monday’s meeting. “The last five or six years across the country we’ve seen some problems with how dress codes are formulated and a lot of times they’re so old that it’s as if they’re trying to force girls into compliance with a code and there’s no equitable expectation on boys for anything similar. So I just want to make sure that we get some input from our students that the wording that we use and the direction that we take with our dress code is equitable and using some modern language. I don’t know if archaic is the right word, but we want to make sure that we’re up-to-date on some things.”
Smith said that he believes dress codes can be sexist, though he does not believe the AHS dress code is particularly misogynistic.
“I think ours is written fairly well,” he said. “Ours encourages modesty. It doesn’t say ‘girls need to dress modestly.’ But I do want to make sure that it’s up to some modern standards of providing comfort. There are some ways in which dress codes kind of force uncomfortable clothes and I know (from) that some complaints we’ve had from parents over the years that it’s kind of hard to keep up with modern fashion — it’s kind of hard to keep up with some of the older dress code expectations.”
A bad dress code can put the onus on young girls to prevent their own sexual harassment and assault, Smith feels.
“Really what we need to do is have the expectation on boys to be respectful,” he said. “I just want to make sure our wording encourages that.”