New dress code at Albert Einstein Highschool sparks controversy among students

Oct. 15, 2019, 7 p.m. | By Sophia Lucarelli | 4 years, 6 months ago

Students concerned about bias in the dress code and its enforcement

Albert Einstein High School's new principal, Christine Handy, began the 2019-2020 school year by holding assemblies for each grade, where she announced the new student dress code. Students responded by protesting the rules and requesting more relaxed standards. The new dress code is unfair, targets specific groups such as larger women and aims to oppress women and their bodies. 

Albert Einstein High School started the year with a new dress code (courtesy of Catherine Lo). Photo courtesy of Catherine Lo.

According to Einstein students, the dress code was not further mentioned after the assemblies. When sophomore Lily Barker attempted to get more information about the new dress code, she was met with more questions than answers. “The dress code isn't clear, they don't have any specific rules that I know of. I feel like when I walk the hallways, the staff is looking to dress code me,” Barker says. And she’s right, the code is not published on the Albert Einstein website or the official Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) website. Einstein's student guide to rights and responsibilities links to the basic MCPS dress code guidelines, which do not resemble Handy’s code. 

In the past, Einstein has followed the standard MCPS dress code guidelines quite loosely, with rare occasions of actual enforcement. The MCPS dress code rules states, “MCPS has no formal dress code. However, children should wear clothing that allows for full participation in the instructional program.” If this is what students find when searching for more information about Einstein's new dress code, how can administration expect students to follow it?

Since the dress code has been announced, students have been cited for things as insignificant as wearing a headband. “One of my friends got dress coded because she wore a headband that was covering too much her head. Her midriff was showing at the time, but they only called her out for the headband,” Einstein sophomore Kenall Cox explains. Other students report similar experiences with the vague dress code, and question if the system is biased against specific groups. Einstein sophomore Sophia Hurley comments that she observed inequitable enforcement at school. “Girls who are curvier are getting called out much more than skinnier girls. It's understandable that they are getting very self-conscious if they're the only ones being called out,” says Hurley. 

Suspicions of a bias against certain groups do not end there. Einstein sophomore Olivia Lopez noticed that the dress code is not aimed at boys, “I think it's really degrading when [the dress code] isn't enforced onto the boys and then it's the only thing they focus on for girls. It's kind of saying that the boys' education is more important,” Lopez says.

Students at Blair take a stance on Einstein's dress code as well. Blair junior Alessia Malapi believes that dress codes only make students feel more insecure. “High school students already have enough insecurity as it is; dress codes only make it worse. They tell girls to cover up just to please boys, it's messed up,” Malapi says. Malapi recalls the feeling of when she got dress coded in middle school, “I had to wear this ugly sweatshirt some teacher gave me to cover me up. It made me feel like crap because I really liked what I was wearing that day,” Malapi says.

In response to the dress code, Einstein students have organized protests against these new policies, wearing exactly what the dress code attempts to suppress. Multiple students have filed complaints to the office asking that the school administration change the rules.

The student protests should not be taken as an opposition to a dress code, but rather an objection to the inequity of the dress code. “If the school had approached the dress code more clearly and nicely then I think it would have worked,” Barker says. 

This is a great opportunity for the Albert Einstein staff to give their students a voice and allow them to help shape the culture at their school. If the administration listened to their students, they would understand that students do not support a dress code that is strict, bias and unfairly enforced. 

Last updated: Oct. 15, 2019, 7 p.m.

Tags: Einstein Einstein HS opinion dress code

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