Focus on Education NOT Clothes

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The dress code policy at our school has become outrageous and in many ways sexist. We have been told over and over again to not wear shorts above the knee or skirts/dresses that are “too revealing” but who and what defines what is too revealing? The Polk County Student Code of Conduct states, “All students may wear hemmed walking shorts or Bermuda shorts and female students may wear skorts, provided that such shorts or skorts are no shorter than mid-thigh as determined by the principal or designee exercising his or her judgment” yet everyday students at our school get sent to the Learning Center for violations that are not always truly violations in accordance to the county-wide policies. Furthermore, the administration has placed an excessive amount of importance on what students wear as if that had any effect on academic success, respectfulness, or quality of the school environment.

Girls are a larger target for violation of these rules and not necessarily because they are in ACTUAL violation of them but because of the vivid sexism in our dress code and enforcement thereof. A girl seen wearing a dress that goes above the knee automatically face consequences while boys barely face these consequences for wearing shorts above the knee.

Many argue that the dress code is put in place to ensure a safe and prosperous learning environment but who can prosper in an environment where you are constantly being targeted for your choice of clothing that may not always interfere with rules and policies? Being sent to the learning center takes time away from your learning time, interfering with the academic outreach of a student. It seems like it’s more important to have consequences for things that don’t harm than to learn. You are telling us that what we wear, in many cases, is more important than our education.

The county’s slogan is “Students First”, yet students are not exactly put first when making decisions that directly affect us. These rules are made without considering us, our culture, or our fashion trends in any sense. While at some point, teenagers liked to wear Bell-Bottoms, now teens prefer to wear shorter shorts. The dress code and the administration must adapt and evolve as times change. The school’s slogan is “Be Bold, Be Brave, Be You”, but we aren’t allowed to fully be ourselves in expressing ourselves in, for example, clothing.

Additionally, all of these rules are made without any student opinion made or considered. If there are going to be rules put in place that affect us more than anyone else in the school, then students and administration must reach a consensus and agree, both parties considering each other's opinions and points of view. This not only increases student participation in school decisions but also allows the administration to hear the students out, their opinions, because the student voice matters just as much as the administration's voice.

If it’s “Student First”, then it has to be student-led, in order to live up to a slogan you have to make students feel like they have a say, like they have a voice, and right now that is not how we feel.

Lake Gibson High School is the best school in Polk County (as stated by our principle Ryan Vann), no doubt about it, and we strongly believe that Polk County is a great county in many ways, but that doesn’t mean that it can’t be better. Help us make Lake Gibson High School and Polk County better and more representative of all of our voices and opinions, help us make them listen to us and our demands, and help us in this fight to actually put Students First.

What we’re looking for as students:

1. More careful consideration of our opinions and values when doing things that affect us (ex. When making rules)

2. A change in the schools dress code policy to match that of the county’s in allowing shorts and skirts/dresses to be worn no shorter than mid-thigh. (Currently, it can’t be above the knee).

3. School Wide Meetings: These should be done in accordance with administration schedules and should be at least every 4 weeks, the first one being 4 weeks after the first day of school. These school/town meetings should be done on a school night at a time agreed on by students and administration. The principal and vice principals, as well as deans and administrators, should be required to attend. Every student, family, and staff member is invited to come and participate.

                a. At these school meetings, the administration will discuss in what ways the school has improved and some of the goals and accomplishments from previous meetings.
                b. All the attendees will be allowed to ask questions to the administration as well as petition and request ideas and changes.
                          i. This is done to have more community participation in school policies and so that the diverse voices and opinions are heard and taken into account.
                          ii. No question or comment will be ignored or dismissed.
                          iii. A record of everything said, asked, commented, and responded       will be kept and posted on the school website in PDF format.

We want to make it clear that we love our administration very much and the reason we are doing this is because we feel unincluded in much sense. This petition stands to not only change the dress code rules and establish school meetings but to establish inclusiveness and diversity in our school decision-making process.