Dress Code Violates Constitution

Briana Deferreira, Staff Writer

Many public schools enforce a strict dress code, but is this always legal? At what point does enforcing a dress code violate the constitutional rights of a student?

According to Massachusetts law, public schools are actually not allowed to enforce a strict dress code unless they can prove that it either disrupts the learning environment, causes a safety hazard, or violates “standards of health.”

The guidelines at Ludlow High School do not follow the law and administrators should change the dress code.

The 190th General Court of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, section 83, states “School officials shall not abridge the rights of students as to personal dress and appearance except if such officials determine that such personal dress and appearance violate reasonable standards of health, safety and cleanliness.”

A shoulder strap that is less than one inch does not meet the requirement of the law and therefore should not be restricted.

In 1974, Massachusetts passed the following law: “freedom of expression in the public schools of the commonwealth shall not be abridged, provided that such right shall not cause any disruption or disorder within the school.”

Now many of you may be wondering how shoulders, a bra strap, or showing one’s belly button on school grounds can be considered disruptive to the learning environment or violate standards of health, cleanliness, and safety.

Even the American Civil Liberties Union says, “Dress codes are frequently unevenly enforced against girls for wearing clothing that is considered a “distraction” to boys in the classroom.”

There have been many occasions that girls have been sent home for wearing “tops with less than one inch,”  but boys walk in the school with muscle shirts and pants that expose their underwear with no punishment. The handbook says “no muscle shirts or sleeveless undershirts” and “no exposed undergarments” yet boys wear these all of the time. The enforcement is uneven.

When asked if the dress code is unfair, senior Courtney Breslin says, “Yes, because it’s asking girls to hide themselves so they aren’t a distraction to anyone,” adding that “everyone is old enough to make the choice to pay attention in class instead of staring at a girl’s shoulder.”

Throughout the school you can find many students expressing themselves with their clothing and none of them are a safety hazard, as the law prohibits, yet students still get in trouble over their clothing.

Breslin also believes that the dress code in fact does more harm than good because when someone “gets called down and forced to change into something the school deems ‘appropriate,’ they’re taking away from that individual’s class time and education.”

Administrators are calling students out based on their own standards rather than the standards of the law.

Consequences of violating the dress code can be severe. On page 17 of the student handbook it states “second and subsequent dress code offense may progress up to 6 Extended Detentions.”

When asked how she feels about this rule, Senior Kayleigh Croteau says, “knowing on your second dress code offense you can get up to 6 extended detentions isn’t right. Dress code shouldn’t be that much of a big deal.”

Ludlow High School should not be enforcing a strict dress code when the Massachusetts law, the Civil Liberties Union, and The 190th General Court of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts section 83, all state the school officials are not allowed to do so.