By DAN TOMASELLO
LYNNFIELD — The School Committee voted to overhaul the district’s dress code policy during an Aug. 31 meeting.
The policy change was the result of a group of now high school freshmen telling the school board during a June meeting that the school system’s dress code policy for all four schools was unfair toward young women and was unequally enforced. Superintendent Kristen Vogel and Middle School Principal Stephen Ralston discussed updating the dress code policy with the young women late last year.
School Committee Vice Chairwoman Stacy Dahlstedt, who serves on the Policy Subcommittee along with School Committee Chairman Rich Sjoberg, thanked the girls for bringing their concerns forward.
“I want to thank the students who presented their thoughts and ideas to the School Committee last June,” said Dahlstedt. “What they did was demonstrate how to advocate for themselves in a respectful manner. I appreciate the courage in their efforts to initiate change.”
Dahlstedt gave an overview of the revised dress code policy, which is known as Policy JICA.
“It is expected that students will take pride in their personal appearance,” said Dahlstedt while reading the revised policy. “Student dress should be within reasonable limits and should not be extreme. Personal appearance, dress or grooming must not disrupt the educational process or threaten the health or safety of any individual. The building principals have the right to ask students to change their attire if it disrupts the educational environment.”
Dahlstedt said the revised dress code policy prohibits “clothing or jewelry that displays slogans, insignias or designs that advertise alcohol, drugs or sexual material which promote products or activities that are illegal, profane or suggestive.” She also said the policy bans “clothing or jewelry which is disparaging to others in the school environment and contains slurs regarding race, ethnicity, religion, disabilities, gender or sexual orientation.”
“When in school, students may not wear underwear as outerwear, beachwear or sleepwear,” said Dahlstedt. “Repeated violations of the dress code will result in consequences consistent with the Code of Conduct.”
School Committeeman Phil McQueen expressed his support for the revised dress code policy.
“This cleans the policy up,” said McQueen. “It is clear and understandable, and is not archaic and sexist.”
After the discussion, the School Committee approved the revised dress code policy.
Students express support
Lynnfield High School freshman Ella Hayman, who is the daughter of School Committee member Jamie Hayman, told the Villager that she is pleased that the dress code policy was updated. She was one of the young women who pushed for the dress code policy overhaul last June.
“It’s an important step because the policy is fairer for girls,” said Hayman. “It’s important for younger girls or any student to see they can make changes if they speak up about an issue. Students are capable of making changes for the better.”
Freshman Ciara Long said the revised dress code policy is “fairer for everybody.”
“I am just really glad that girls who are in middle school are no longer going to be called distracting to other students based on what they are wearing,” said Long. “I didn’t understand why I was dress coded for wearing a tank top when I was in middle school. When students now get dress coded, they will understand that it is fair and will understand why they are getting dress coded.”
Freshman Maeve Donovan echoed Long’s viewpoint.
“The policy is now gender neutral,” said Donovan. “Students can now wear what they want to school and are now allowed to express themselves at school.”
Freshman Emma Rose concurred with her close friends’ sentiment.
“It’s great that the School Committee listened to our thoughts and concerns about the dress code,” said Rose. “They took the time to help us figure out a new way for students to feel safe and welcomed in school. It’s great that students are not going to get dress coded for wearing a tank top nowadays. Students are going to feel more welcome and safe in this environment. It’s great that we had the opportunity to do this.”