On Tuesday, Dec. 8, a group of 16 students and teachers met at the Brookline Teen Center to discuss the high school’s dress code. The day was dominated by a six hour discussion of the dress code, but also included a variety of activities.
According to senior Maya Jakubowski, the event was planned by a group of students and teachers with an interest in the dress code. The attendees discussed, debated and analyzed aspects of the high school’s current dress code in the hopes of creating a new, better version for the future.
The BHS Handbook never uses the term “dress code” and students have freedom to dress in whatever way they want, except when “there is an overriding, legitimate school purpose.” Jakubowski said the goal of the meeting was to begin the process of creating language for the handbook.
“The point of the day wasn’t to come in with a goal where we wanted to rewrite the whole thing,” Jakubowski said. “We just wanted to have a brain dump from faculty and students as to their thoughts about how the dress code manifests itself in the school.”
According to senior Talia Putnoi, who attended the event, this meeting was seen as a first step in working towards a new dress policy.
“I think the first step to action is knowing where everyone is at and just assessing the problem in various ways which we did well,” Putnoi said.
Spanish teacher Alisa Conner, who also helped organize the meeting, said that one of the difficulties of defining a coherent policy is the dual role the high school has in students’ lives.
“There is conversation around the school setting, because if it is analogous to a workplace, which is pretty much a shared teacher view, students should wear something more professional,” Conner said. “But this is also a place where adolescents live out a lot of their lives and experiment with identity and also push some boundaries and peer relationships are really important, so a lot else goes on for adolescents besides academics. So we are trying to hold all of that and listen to all of that.”
Jakubowski and Putnoi both said they view the dress code as one example of institutional sexism at the high school, and reforming it as only a first step to combatting this sexism.
“I was wondering why aren’t we talking about the whole bigger part of sexism in BHS, and this just an evident manifestation just in one thing’” Jakubowski said. “It is policing the way female-bodied people dress, but it is hard to stage a mass movement or a revolution about the bigger thing, so we just have to focus on wording and dress code.”
Jakubowski said she viewed the meeting as a success, and that future discussions have already been planned.
“It was good to hear the teachers and it was good to have them hear what we have to say, but it is not over,” Jakubowski said. “We are planning to meet again on December 22, afterschool in room 238 for anyone who wants to come because this is an ongoing thing. I think our goal is to write something for the Handbook because when there is nothing there, it is random and left up to what each teacher thinks.”