Student dress code has been a ruling issue in many schools for years now, and Oswego High School is no exception. At the beginning of the 2022-2023 school year, District 308 released an updated dress code. The current student dress policy can be found in the “Student Discipline (Conduct, Interventions, and Consequences)” section of the Student Rights and Responsibilities Code, and states that student clothing must include a top, bottoms, and footwear, and all private parts must be covered by opaque material. Beyond those stipulations, there are no other restrictions.
Andrea Parker, Oswego High School’s assistant principal of Student Services, informed us—through an interview executed over email—that the consultation began during the 2021-2022 school year, which involved both district and building administration, students and their parents, as well as other staff members.
The new policy is much less restrictive than previous years, and now explicitly states that “dress code enforcement does not reinforce or increase marginalization or oppression of any group based on race, sex, gender identity, gender expression, sexual orientation, ethnicity, religion, cultural observance, household income, or body type/size.”
The policy also reiterates that student dress should never interfere with students’ safety and health, nor should it foster a negative or threatening environment.
”Whenever there is change, you attempt to incorporate the viewpoints and perspectives of all,” Parker said. ”District 308 continues to promote an inclusive and safe learning environment for all students.”
The dress code is revised yearly, though this year’s revisions are much more substantial than prior changes.
”The dress code was reviewed and updated with an emphasis to be in alignment with SD308 Equity Statements,” Parker said.
OHS students seem to appreciate the changes, too.
“People are more willing to express themselves in their clothing now,” junior Kasey Marcum said.
Without fear of retribution for wearing clothing items such as crop tops or thin-strapped tank tops, students are feeling more empowered and liberated than ever.When asked about our new dress code policy, it became apparent that female students were generally much more opinionated than male students and had greater awareness of the changes as a whole.
Freshman Lihanna Jones pointed out that she appreciates the fact that girls will now have increased freedom to dress as they please without immediately being shut down and/or hearing a lecture that usually entails the tired excuse: “boys will be boys.”
Students feel that the dress code not only expands students’ right to freedom of expression, but also empowers young women to feel more confident in themselves as individuals.
“I would always have to change and go put on something else, while other girls were running around wearing the same type of stuff that I was wearing, and they wouldn’t get in trouble,” sophomore Candice Toufour said, regarding her experience with her middle school’s dress code. “We don’t have to hide who we are [anymore].”
All girls, regardless of varying body types, are now able to wear the same types of clothes without fear of being dress coded. Interviewed students shared that with the revised dress code, they feel that those with more mature bodies are no longer targeted, as all students are now held to the same expectation.
This year’s dress code alterations are also helping students feel more comfortable participating in the school community.
Students voiced to us that they feel as though the former dress code gave teachers too much power, that the current dress code is allowing students to reclaim a portion of that power for themselves, and many have gained a newfound desire to participate within their community now.
“[Students] wouldn’t want to get dress coded or sent home for what they were wearing, so they would just hide in the bathroom,” Toufour said.
In the past, dress code was a cause of anxiety for students—the fear of punishment being a major contribution. With less restrictive rules, students are more comfortable being active members in their community and attending their classes regularly.
In the wise words of junior Chance Marlowe, “I stay dripped.”