Staff Editorial: Careful consideration needed for dress code change


Protesting for change is often a necessary right guaranteed by our Constitution, but it must be done correctly in order to create a positive response. Many BVNW students hope to see the school’s dress code altered so students can wear styles that show their shoulders. Tomorrow’s dress code protesters may find the administration is not likely to amend the dress code if the protest turns into insubordination.

Thanks to the Supreme Court ruling in the Tinker v. Des Moines case, students do not completely shed their freedom of speech or expression at school so long as they are not disruptive. However, the Court ruled in Bethel v. Fraser that schools are able to individually determine – quite loosely – what is and is not disruptive to the learning process.

The dress code at BVNW clearly states that bare shoulders are disruptive. Students who come to school wearing tank tops or other revealing clothing will be asked to cover up by the administration. Saying no to this request may become a problem for the students. While bearing shoulders will not earn a suspension on its own, refusing to comply with administrative instructions may, which means students protesting must be mindful of their actions.

The right to peacefully protest is a core Constitutional right, but the right to bear one’s shoulders in a publicly-funded school is not necessarily. At BVNW, one must acknowledge that peaceful protest is sometimes necessary, but it must be done while considering certain rules and accepting consequences.

BVNW’s dress code protesters will have to be prepared for whatever the administration deems “disruptive.”

Even more, protesters must know that the idea of power in numbers does not apply here. The number of participants involved does not foreshadow a consequence-free protest.

Take, for example, the senior prank of 2013. There were more than 100 students involved in busting into the school pool who received suspensions. On top of being suspended, those in National Honor Society were stripped of their membership.

In the same way, a mass of students refusing to follow administrative instruction to cover up will not prevent punishments from being assigned. Students need to be aware and prepared for these consequences if this is the route they are wanting to take.

The tank top protest could relay the message, but dialogue among all parties is also necessary to bring about the change students are seeking. Students and the administration both have valid views, and each side must hear the other one out.

Talk to your Student Government representatives. Volunteer a spokesperson to make the case against current dress code policies. Chances are, both sides will hear a different perspective. An environment of mutual understanding and respect may just be the groundwork for compromise.

Students can also choose to wear t-shirts with a school-appropriate slogan or sign a petition; there are options available when fighting to be heard – it is only important to do research and protest wisely.

Exercising our First Amendment rights as citizens and as students is extremely valuable to initiate change. It is important to constantly question things and to fight for change. That being said, we must know our rights well and understand the limits in order to find the best solution to instigate the change we desire.