By Grace Pecci
The constitutionality of the dress code at Robert Adams Middle School (RAMS), which was established six years ago, was recently debated.
A small card with an American flag as the background had been passed around the school with The Massachusetts General Law Part 1, Section XII, Chapter 71, Section 83 stating “Dress and appearance of students protected. School officials shall not abridge the rights of students as to personal dress and appearance except if such officials determine that such personal dress and appearance violate reasonable standards of health, safety and cleanliness.”
Principal Peter Botelho indicated that he did not know who sent this around. Other teachers at the middle school did not want to name the person.
TJ Farrell and Nick Pecci said that they were walking downtown in Holliston with a group of friends and a parent pulled over her car. She asked if they liked the dress code and gave them about 200 cards to pass out. Pecci, Farrell, and a few other kids passed the cards around the school.
Eighth grade Social Studies teacher Mr. Jesse Conant compared school dress code to a scenario such as screaming “fire” in a movie theater. He said that although humans have rights for freedom of speech, there are still laws that prevent people from screaming “fire” in a movie theater when there is no fire.
It is similar to the issues with the dress code because although there are laws stating that school officials cannot take away the rights of students for dress and appearance, “there are laws in the country that do apply if people are wearing something that can cause problems,” Mr. Conant said.
“Dress code has constitutional issues connected to them, that is true. However, reasonableness is the word that comes in school law,” Mr. Botelho said.
He went on to explain that standards for the school dress code were determined by students and parents initially but then it was elected by school boards.
According to three seventh graders, Kathryn Johnston, Lexie Aylward, and Elena Daly, many of the recent problems with the dress code at RAMS include yoga pants that are too tight, straps that aren’t wide enough and skirts or dresses that aren’t long enough. The main problem with boys is seeing their boxers.
Mr. Botelho understands that students have individual styles, but he said that there is a need for reasonable standards. The dress code was initially established by former principal, Jessica Huizenga, along with the input of parents and students. Over the years, it has been slightly revised.
Mr. Conant said the big thing with dress code is that teachers and administrators look at school as a professional environment and take school seriously. He sees students breaking the dress code often, but it depends on the time of the year and the weather. When the weather is nicer, girls break the dress code more often by wearing shorts and skirts that are too short, and their tank top straps are not wide enough.
Johnston feels that the dress code is stricter about the clothing that girls wear.
“Girls have it so hard,” Johnston said. She doesn’t understand why the middle school has a dress code if the high school doesn’t.
“Guys have two rules, girls have fifty,” Aylward said
Elena Daly understands some of the rules but feels that some aspects of the dress code are annoying. She said that it is hard to find clothes that fit the dress code regulations.
Mr. Botelho said that a lot of students like to have no restrictions upon their choices and don’t understand the need for reasonable standards. The parents “want to have some guidelines in a middle school, it’s hard to make them perfect.”