Students question school’s dress code

After junior Olivia Haston took to Twitter with concern for the BVNW dress code, students began to organize a protest for Tuesday.

Junior Olivia Haston walked into school a few minutes late Thursday, headed to her second hour math class. In the hall, administrator Katie Bonnema stopped her and asked her to change out of her shirt, which was semi-sheer, and into a shirt that did not break school dress code.

“I felt like it violated school rules, which is why I approached her,” Bonnema said. “I wouldn’t approach any student if they weren’t in violation of the policy.”

Haston said that from her perspective, the shirt was school appropriate.

“It was a long sleeve shirt, it … fully covered my chest; nothing was bad about it,” Haston said. “I left school. I didn’t get signed out – I just left school to go home and change.”

Haston said that, when asked to change, she responded, “This is ridiculous, like, I shouldn’t be wasting time out of my math class to change my outfit, which is not inappropriate.”

“I felt bad because I was rude about it and I could tell that I had an attitude,” Haston said. “So, I emailed [Mrs. Bonnema] about it.”

Haston sent an email to Bonnema, tweeting a picture of the email’s contents. The email read:

Screen Shot 2015-09-05 at 3.31.18 PM

After hearing of Haston’s situation and witnessing another student being told to cover up, junior Jensen Panegasser said she created a group message with hundreds of BVNW girls in it. Panegasser said the group made a plan to wear tank tops on Tuesday.

BV policy“The group message was basically just about the tank top day, and so if an administrator stops [a person wearing a tank top], you basically say that you’re not changing and that it’s your right to wear a tank top …  and you shouldn’t be violated like that,” Panegasser said.

Bonnema said students will not get in trouble solely for wearing the tank tops, however there will be consequences if students refuse to follow an administrator or teacher’s instructions to change into clothing that follows dress code.

“We would contact parents and they would be assigned a consequence, up to and including having to go home for the day or (getting a) suspension,” Bonnema said. “That typically doesn’t happen, because our kids are pretty good about working with us.”

Haston said although she is not fully aware of the consequences of protesting, she wants the right to be able to make her own judgments about her clothing choices.

“I’m willing to take any consequence because I think that I should be able to wear a tank top to school and not get yelled at,” Haston said. “I think it would be over the line to suspend a girl for wearing a tank top, so I think in that manner it would make the administrators look worse, if they were to suspend a student for wearing a tank top; they’d get a lot of complaints from parents.”

Senior Jackson Wells said that the manner in which some female students choose to dress against dress code makes him uncomfortable.

“I just don’t feel I’m in a good environment, in a studious environment,” Wells said. “It’s stuff that girls wear to go out, not to go to school, not to study.”

Wells also said he feels it is unfair that the male students are being blamed  for the problems arising due to the dress code.

Haston said that, in a way, the dress code is also suggesting a negative image of male students. She said there is fault in the Print idea that there should be restrictions to what girls can wear because of possibly distracting male students.

“Not only is it women that are being put down, having to change or being told that they’re not appropriate,” Haston said “They’re also implying that guys are almost creepy.”

Panegasser said she has not witnessed male students getting distracted by girls who break the dress code by showing their shoulders.

“The shoulders, I don’t find that an issue at all because I have never met a guy who would see a shoulder and be like ‘Oh my god, that’s so distracting,’” Panegasser said.

Haston said one of the main reasons why the dress code is an issue for her is the way the administration approaches students violating the dress code.

“It’s definitely how [the administration is] treating us,” Haston said. “They’re rude about it, and I think that they should come to someone and say, in a nice manner, like ‘Hey, to me that is a little bit inappropriate, could you maybe like phone a friend, get a sweater, or just cover up a little bit more and maybe not wear that tank top next time?’”

Bonnema said she would prefer to be informed directly by the students if there was an issue of disrespect in the manner they were approached.

“If a student felt like it was being handled in a disrespectful manner, I would hope that they would say something so that we can have a dialogue about it, because that would never be my intent nor any of the other administrators,” Bonnema said.

Panegasser said she thinks that ultimately, students should be trusted to know what is and is not appropriate to wear to school. The administration, according to Bonnema, does trust the student body with their clothing choices, but she believes there is still a need for some restrictions to be in place.

“We trust students to wear clothing that they’re comfortable in, that they feel like represents themselves and expresses themselves the way they would want,” Bonnema said. “We just put boundaries on it, and I think that’s reasonable for a high school student to have an element of trust with boundaries enforcing it.”

Haston said the intent of the protest is to make a change in the BVNW dress code. She said the aim is to gain enough support from participants to encourage administration to return to the previous dress code policy for tank tops.

“I think that what everyone is saying is that if we rebel and we stand up for ourselves and stick to what we believe in, that we can get back that two-finger rule,” Haston said.

Bonnema said that in the past the two-finger rule – which mandates that tank top straps be a width of two fingers – has led to disagreement due to different interpretations of the rule.

“In response to the two finger or three finger rule for the shoulders, it’s my understanding that several years before I was at Northwest that that was the policy, and that it was a constant debate between administration and students of ‘Oh your two fingers are a little bit wider than my two fingers, and what a spaghetti strap is to you is not a spaghetti strap to me,’” Bonnema said. “That’s why the policy moved toward having the shoulders covered so that it wasn’t an argument from one day to the next and one student to another.”

Though Wells said he feels uncomfortable with certain types of clothing students wear to school, he said the aim to return to the two finger rule with the protest is acceptable.

“I think it’s fine with tank tops,” Wells said. “I think it’s a cool idea to protest, but I don’t know how that’s going to go. The rules are the rules as of right now, so I don’t know how that’s going to go down.”



Principal Amy Murphy sent an email about BVNW’s dress code on Aug. 13. The email reminded students and parents about the dress code specific to BVNW and measures that would be taken if the rules were not followed.



A staff editorial will be published Monday.