N.Y. school 'busts' 200 students (mostly girls) for dress code violations

A Staten Island high school has hit 200 students with detention – 90 percent girls – for violating the school's new dress code. What's the lesson?

A strict dress code adopted by a Staten Island school has resulted in 200 detentions in the last two weeks.

A city Department of Education spokeswoman tells the New York Post the new "Dress for Success" policy at Tottenville High School was a "local decision" made "at the discretion of the principal."

The DOE officials say parents signed off on the policy before the start of the new year. But some parents say the policy has backfired.

The paper says Principal Joseph Scarmato didn't return calls seeking comment.

Ninety percent of the detained students have been girls.

The Post reports that the school has 15 staffers enforcing the policy each morning, scanning for violations.

District 31 Superintendent Aimee Horowitz, who oversees Tottenville, said in a statement to The Post that skimpy clothing is banned because it “creates a distraction, is dangerous or interferes with the learning and teaching process.”

The code covers everything from tank tops and short-shorts to hoodies and sunglasses.

As The Christian Science Monitor reports, this isn't the first fashion police controversy of the 2014 school year. A case in Florida raised the issue of "shaming" for violators of the dress code.

Miranda Larkin was new to the area and just a few days into the semester at Oakleaf High School in Clay County, Fla., when she wore a skirt that the school nurse said was a violation because it rose more than three inches above her knee, Miranda told USA Today. She says she was told to wear a bright yellow T-shirt and bright red sweatpants with the words “Dress Code Violation” on them.

A school district representative told USA Today that students who violate the dress code have a choice of wearing the outfit, having someone bring them a suitable outfit, or going to in-school suspension. Dianna Larkin, Miranda’s mother, told the paper that no other options were offered and that her daughter was so humiliated she “started sobbing and broke out in hives.”

Others note that if the goal is to teach children how to dress for success, school administrators and parents are up against a pop culture that promotes a different standard.

Those messages from pop-culture ring much louder for teens than any implicit public code, says Jean Kilbourne, a feminist speaker. "Girls these days are really pressured to dress in a very provocative way. All of their role models – celebrities and pop stars – dress that way. For them, sexy and attractive is defined in a very clichéd and stereotypical way." School enforced dress codes can help to alleviate some of the pressures that girls feel to dress seductively and can offer parents some guidelines to fall back on, according to Kilbourne, author of several books, including "So Sexy So Soon: The New Sexualized Childhood," in an interview last year.


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