Rocky Mountain Administration Sends Out Apology After Dress Code Reminder Sparks Backlash


RMHS Admin

The attachment provided by the administration to show the difference between “acceptable” and “unacceptable” clothing at school.

A Rocky Mountain reminder from administrators–and subsequent apology–about school dress codes has sparked outrage among the student body. The email brought scrutiny on Rocky Mountain’s dress code and how it appeared to target female students. 

The initial email, sent out Tuesday, April 27, started out with a call to parents to make sure students are wearing “appropriate” clothing for a school environment. Students are not allowed to wear shirts showing any midriff and any shorts shorter than “three inches from the inseam,” according to the first email.

Friday, April 30, an apology was sent out acknowledging the tone-deaf announcement. At that point, student outrage was seen around the school.

“Initially I was shocked at how obviously targeted the message was,” student Camille Long-Shore said. “It angered me that people were mostly paying attention to girls and their clothes.”

“We apologize for the frustration and/or confusion that our Tuesday email caused,” the email started. The email clarified that talks had been happening about updating the dress code prior to the email, and that the email did not reflect those talks. 

The administration confirmed that most students will be asked to change if they have drug or alcohol references on their clothing. Students in crop tops and short-shorts will not be followed up on in the same fashion. 

The administration said in the initial email that they wanted students to remember the “character and class that our students are known for” at Rocky. They also included an attachment to clarify what exactly Rocky’s “young ladies” can and can not wear in school. 

The official dress code policy prohibits clothing that does not cover “underwear, the midriff, chest, and buttocks.” Shirts are required to be “below the belly button” when standing, and “half shirts, see-through shirts,” and “mesh shirts” are prohibited. The school policy cites this as a distraction from learning. The short length mentioned in the email is nowhere in the school policy. 

This dress code policy comes on the heels of dozens of complaints and protests over sexist dress code policies around the US. According to an article from the National Education Association (NEA), dress code violations are disproportionately reported in women of color, specifically Black women. 

Dress codes can also interrupt the education of female students. According to the National Women’s Law Center, students in DC can be pulled out of school for a dress code violation. This policy could mean that while these dress codes are aimed at not being disruptive to male students, they can disrupt young women’s’ education more. Being pulled out of class to change or grab something different devalues a girl’s education.

The retraction email acknowledges this fact. “Historically, at RMHS and schools around the nation, dress codes have been confusing, inconsistent, and disproportionately target certain students.”

“These punishments interrupt girls’ educations while sending dangerous messages to the school community: how a girl looks is more important than what she thinks, and girls are ultimately responsible for the misbehavior of boys,” said the National Women’s Law Center in 2018. 

“I felt it was targeting girls. Guys can break dress codes too,” senior Annabel Lasher said. “I also don’t understand why this was the priority with five weeks left of school. What prompted this?”

A suggestion for a gender neutral, appropriate dress code from the NEA is that policy states all “private parts” must be covered at all times. This wording does not target specific body parts like cleavage or buttocks and instead makes sure students are covered. 

The retraction email states a similar intention. “Our new code will be gender neutral and inclusive of all students and will be a representation of the true culture of Rocky Mountain High School.”

Long-Shore said she addressed the issue of gender neutral codes with Dr. Woodall at a meeting following the first email. She said that the administration was receptive and willing to hear her concerns on behalf of the student body. She stressed the importance of accountability and the importance of not victim-blaming students based on their outfits.

The Rocky policy is that students can either go to the Student Health and Wellness Center to get T-shirts and socks for violations of the dress code or clothing issues, and they will not be sent home. 

After the announcement, girls were still wearing crop tops around Rocky. Boys were also seen wearing crop tops and short-shorts, presumably in protest. RMHS meme Instagram lobo_archive posted on their story that people wearing crop tops to school Thursday would get a shout out on their page. 

“I am hoping that students can feel comfortable and that they have a comfortable environment where they do not feel objectified or singled out for clothing,” Long-Shore said. “I want people to feel safe, heard, and that they would not be victims of harassment or victim-blaming in a school environment. I am glad that the situation was addressed respectfully and that a response was sent out.”

The internal miscommunication within the administration revealed what many would consider the dress code policy for what it was–outdated and inappropriate. Going forward, the administration plans to review the dress code policies and announce new rules come fall of 2021.