Get Manistique Area Schools to change and review its dress code policy

Get Manistique Area Schools to change and review its dress code policy

September 12, 2022
Signatures: 301Next Goal: 500
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Why this petition matters

An open letter the Manistique Area Schools Board of Education:

This letter is intended to draw attention to the recently enacted changes to the Manistique Area Schools’ dress code. Changes that have been included as part of the 2022-2023 Student/Parent Handbook. Students were made aware of these changes at the end of the first day of school via a school-wide intercom announcement. Parents may have heard of these changes through discussion from their children, but the changes were not well-known or distributed. In fact, the student/parent handbook agreement form — required to be signed by each parent and student — was printed with a link to the 2021-22 handbook, which did not include the changes.

To clarify, there are issues with a number of the dress code stipulations, which are clearly and disproportionately targeted at your female or transgender female student body. These include:

“The length of shorts or skirts must be appropriate (fingertip with arms extended at sides) for the school environment.”
“Shirts/blouses should cover a student's chest and have straps that are at least three fingers wide.”
“Shirts must overlap with pants, shorts or skirts."
The overt sexism of these portions of the dress code should be seriously evaluated for their intended purpose. At the bottom of the dress code, it states that, “Students whose dress causes a disruption of the orderly process of school functions or endangers the health or safety of the student, other students, staff or others may be subject to discipline. Students not wearing appropriate clothing may be excluded from classes until corrections can be made. Time lost due to dress code violations is unexcused.”

It would be nice to hear a well-thought out and formulated statement from the school board and the policy committee about why the appropriate length of skirts has been deemed to be “fingertip” length; why a three-finger wide strap is appropriate, but a two-finger wide strap is not; and why a shirt must overlap a bottom. Who was responsible for determining these limitations? Are they evaluated yearly or just accepted as the norm?

Additionally, has there been a student wearing a shirt that does not cover their chest? Or is this meant to serve as a thinly-veiled attempt to regulate cleavage? Is there a reason why a student needs to have their cleavage covered?

Now, specifically, the newest addition to what can only be deemed a misogynist’s view on how to regulate the appearance of a student is: “Holes, rips, tears in pants must be below fingertip length.” Who was in charge of implementing this rule? Why was it determined that a rip in a pair of jeans must be below fingertip length? Is this the general consensus of more modest board members who exist outside the realm of current fashion, expression, and a public school student’s constitutional right to free expression?

Also, are these holes, rips, and tears, short skirts, shorts and skirts considered “disruptions”? According to the ACLU, school administrators cannot rely on mere speculation that a particular piece of clothing will be disruptive and that without an actual disruption of school activities, or a reasonable threat of one, a court may reject a school official’s argument. The ACLU is vigilant in defending students' rights, further stating that, “Schools cannot enforce dress codes in ways that discriminate against people for who they are. Students, your body is not a problem.”

If a piece of clothing is considered disruptive, a detailed explanation — one that does not involve the projection of an adult’s or other student’s perception of sexuality or modesty — would be appreciated. We cannot, as a community, force our preconceived notions upon impressionable students. We cannot sexualize students who are shopping at the thousands of stores selling the most fashionable items, which happen to be — believe it or not — crop tops and ripped jeans.

To implement these rules is to impart upon these students the belief that they are inappropriate or immodest for showing a bit more shoulder or leg. It is, in essence, tearing apart self-esteem, expressionism, and confidence at a pivotal period of adolescence. Because you or someone else may feel uncomfortable by something you see, you are not entitled to the limitation or castigation of that person.

You do, however, have the right to look away. Which is what anyone should do if they find themselves so preoccupied with how a student is dressing. Unless these students are coming to school in their underwear, what right does the school board have to dictate their free expression?

Consider what message you want to send to your student body. That you are an accepting and approachable board of education or that you still exist within outdated and sexist societal constraints? Please consider researching the dress codes of other districts who have stepped up and moved beyond a time when an adult’s perspective was viewed as the end-all. There are even districts who have abandoned a dress code all together and trust their students to do the right thing. Perhaps a little trust and mutual respect between the students and staff would greatly benefit the district.

On top of the completely inappropriate and unfairly levied rules, you, the school board, are asking a community that is overwhelmingly low income, to go out and purchase new items of clothing to fit these rules — particularly the newly implemented jean “rip” rule. Such a rule in a time when most stores only carry jeans with rips or tears up and down the legs, was ill-advised and ill-timed.

We are asking you to reconsider and breathe new life and perspective into this antiquated and sexist dress code. We understand that may take time, and perhaps, additional insight from the students and community. However, we ask that the new rule, in particular, is eliminated and that the students who have been “dress coded” during this time are rightly absolved (especially since no one has yet agreed to the 2022-2023 handbook, just the 2021-2022 version).

During this time when inflation is negatively affecting people across the country, the school board should be sensitive to the families whose children bring much-needed per-pupil funding to an underfunded, rural district.

Thank you for your time.

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Signatures: 301Next Goal: 500
Support now