Students protest lack of clear dress code through demonstrations in freshman advisories


Senior Maya Jakubowski, junior Diyana Tekleghiorghis, senior Lea Churchill and senior Rory Redgrave stand with the statement that they read in freshman advisories on Tuesday, March 15. Maya Morris / Sagamore Staff

Leon Yang, Sports Writing Editor

About 40 students walked into freshman advisories on Tuesday, March 15 to protest the lack of a clear set of dress code guidelines, which they said causes teachers to arbitrarily “dress-code” them by taking them aside to tell them that their attire is inappropriate and sometimes asking that they change their clothes. After entering the advisories, students involved in the protests read a statement condemning the current ambiguous dress code, then left the classroom immediately afterwards.

The current version of the student handbook states that “The school does not interfere with this right (to dress however one wants) except where there is an overriding, legitimate school purpose that is more important than this right” and “Undergarments should not be visible, and an excess of skin should not be revealed.”

During the protest, a female-bodied student, accompanied by a male-bodied student ally, read the following statement to the freshman advisories:

Hi, we have a quick announcement! You are very likely to be dress-coded if you’re perceived to be female, a person of color, and if you’re curvy, regardless of what clothing you’re wearing. So to those people, we support you and want you to dress however you feel powerful. The dress code singles out curvy female bodies and oppressed people. The dress code body shames. It perpetuates rape culture. It does not promote self respect. It takes away ownership over a person’s body, and teaches boys lack of self control. This is a message from the BHS student body, looking to abolish arbitrary dress codes.

Senior Lea Churchill, who organized the protest, said that she wanted to bring attention to the persistent issue of dress code.

“I wanted to jump-start some student action because I think we have a lot of power as students,” Churchill said, “and I wanted to get out a message to a lot of people really fast about the dress code because there’s a misconception that BHS doesn’t have a dress code and that nothing is enforced, when in fact the vagueness of the dress code means that teachers decide subjectively what is too much skin.”

Churchill also said that she hoped that the protest would educate freshmen about the issue of the dress code. The protests also helped underscore the gender and racial prejudices in Brookline.

“I hope that Brookline and BHS can accept that we have problems because change can only happen when we accept that we have a problem,” Churchill said. “I hope that, probably not by the time that I graduate, but I hope that in the future BHS will be able to adopt a new policy.”

According to Churchill, around half of those who helped with the protest were male-bodied. She said it is important for male-bodied individuals to be allies.

Senior Matthew Morgan was one of these allies. He said that it is important to educate freshmen about the dress coding issue because dress coding can happen to them and to those younger than them.

“Female-bodied people should be aware that they will likely be dress-coded, especially if they have a specific body type and if they’re a person of color, and that they shouldn’t be, and that we support them,” Morgan said.

Morgan also said that he and others involved in the protests hope to propose an unambiguous dress code to the high school.

An anonymous junior mentor who witnessed the protest in her advisory said that although the protest outlined the persistent issue of the dress code, it seemed fast, causing some confusion as to the reason behind the announcement.

Churchill said that the protest may have been confusing for some, and she hopes that some students who witnessed it will educate themselves further about the issue.

“It was meant to be fast and it was meant to hit hard, and I’m of course going to follow up. I think there should be discussion,” Churchill said.

In the meantime, Churchill said that she will continue to support those who are dress-coded.

“I am hoping to get big dialogues going,” Churchill said. “I’ll probably organize some more protests. I’m going to keep dressing however I feel comfortable, and I’m going to encourage others to dress how they feel comfortable.”