RUMFORD — Student adviser-proposed dress code revisions received an uncomfortable response from some Regional School Unit 10 principals at their April 11 meeting.
Students at Mountain Valley High School proposed the revisions, but some board members said they weren’t comfortable with some of the requests or the way they were written.
After a lengthy discussion, the board decided that the proposal would be reconsidered at its 6:30 p.m. meeting on May 2 at Buckfield Junior-Senior High School.
At the April 11 meeting, the council heard from Mountain Valley senior Alana Young, who was present along with several other student council members from the school. The students said they have been working on revisions to the high school dress code since November.
Young told the board that the students met with the RSU 10 policy committee and “worked very hard to (make revisions).” The group sent out surveys and had meetings with teachers and the student body to discuss proposed changes to the dress code.
Some changes would include allowing “no more than two inches of belly/torso showing”, whereas the original policy did not provide for the torso area to be revealed. Other revisions stated that “the lowest part of the neckline of shirts should meet the top of the armpit; the sides of shirts should touch the armpit” and that “shorts and/or skirts should always completely cover the buttocks”.
As the administrators reviewed the revisions, they raised many questions from several administrators, including Buckfield’s Michelle Casey and Rumford’s Abbey Rice, who said they weren’t comfortable with some of the revisions. Rice noted that while she would make herself “unpopular in my own house and with other people,” she was not comfortable with students wearing “tube tops” as shirts to school. . Casey agreed, saying bustiers and strapless clothing should remain “banned” in the district, as it was in the original policy.
Lisa Russellan MVHS educator and leader of the student dress code group, told the council that it’s hard for teens to find stylish clothes “that don’t allow for a bit of a belly” and that the overhaul of shirts with the “part the lowest from the neckline to the top of the armpit” would ensure less exposure of the body.
“So nothing on the sides (of the chest) is exposed, and shorts and skirts should always cover the buttocks. We went back and forth on it. It’s very hard not to sexualize anyone or shame anyone.
“The biggest thing was trying to remove this old language that really singled out female students and the way they dress and a bit of body shaming, to be honest,” Russell said. “So that’s really what it was about.”
Some administrators expressed different views on the specificity of the dress code policy, such as Rumford’s Greg Buccina noted “sometimes there are too many gray areas to put in a policy; I don’t think we’re going to cover everything.
“So I think we need to come up with something that will work maybe 85-90% of the time, to be as explicit as possible,” Buccina said.
Director Peter DeFilip from Mexico noted that he felt that the revisions “prompted the student a bit to be discerning and to respect themselves and others when dressing (themselves).”
“If they’re doing something that shows their underwear, then it doesn’t really show respect…or my idea of respect,” DeFilipp said. “(But) my judgment is (probably) different from someone else’s.”
However, the directorHartford’s Chad Culleton said there should be more clarity in dress code rules. “I think it’s really important for us to give a clear policy, not only for the students but also for the teachers who have to administer this policy.”
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