Starting in the 2018-2019 school year, the dress code in the Puyallup School District’s student handbooks will look a bit different.
The district removed parts of the handbook that prohibits specific items of clothing in favor of more “gender-neutral” language.
Among the prohibited clothing items removed from the handbook: pajamas, leggings, holes in jeans/pants and low cut, tube, one-shouldered, halter, spaghetti strap, see-through and bareback tops.
“A lot of the list of prohibited clothing items are what a female (student) would wear,” said Char Krause, director of student services and school safety for the Puyallup School District. “We have a student dress policy and a freedom of expression policy, so what I wanted to do was make sure that the section of the student handbook aligned to those policies and also didn’t inadvertently target certain students.”
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While no longer listed in the student handbook, students wearing the above attire still can be subject to discipline if the clothing disrupts the classroom.
The Student Rights and Responsibilities handbook for the 2018-2019 school year now refers to Student Dress Policy 3224 and states three main reasons for intervention when it comes to student dress:
A health or safety hazard shall be presented by the student’s dress appearance including possible membership in a gang or hate group
Damage to school property shall result from the student’s dress; or
A material and substantial disruption of the educational process as defined by Policy 3220 (Freedom of Expression) will result from the student’s dress or appearance.
Policy 3220 defines disruption as a breakdown of student order, an inability to conduct classes or school activities, physical violence, widespread shouting, defamation, or substantial student participation in a school boycott, sit-in, walkout or similar activities.
“In a way, the revisions were to be less of a laundry list of items you couldn't wear and more an overarching statement of why we’d step in and ask you to change your clothes,” Krause said. “For the most part we want students to feel comfortable, and we want students to be able to wear what they want to wear.”
The changes to the handbook come after Puyallup High School students held a protest against the school’s dress code last May, claiming it was sexist. About 30 students, both boys and girls, participated in the walkout.
“Our goal here tonight is not to get rid of the dress code completely, but to revise it,” student Kaylie Haven — now a PHS graduate — said in her speech to school board members last year. “The solution I would like to offer is that we create a committee of male and female students … to work on revising the dress code.”
For the first time this year, students from three high schools and a couple junior highs participated with administrators to revise the dress code.
“I think it’s fair to say that the students — that (protest) event — brought that particular issue more to the surface. It caused us to take a closer look at that and really try to make the changes that would meet the needs of all the stakeholders,” Krause said.
PHS assistant principal Lorraine Hirakawa sent the email that sparked the dress code protest last year. She also was the one who organized the group of PHS students to take a closer at the dress code and invited some of the students who protested to attend.
“I felt that (the student review) was very valuable,” Hirakawa said. “I think it’s a trend that we should continue, having students look at it and provide feedback ... I just think that the students’ ability to advocate for change is really important and should be fostered, and I think including the students in those discussions is pivotal in our jobs.”
Krause added that she hoped to continue involving students in handbook changes in the future.
While the language of the dress code has been revised, seeing a difference also hinges on students adhering to it. Hirakawa anticipates staff training in the future.
“I think it’s going to be in the implementation,” she said.