The School Newspaper of Winston Churchill High School.

The Observer

The School Newspaper of Winston Churchill High School.

The Observer

The School Newspaper of Winston Churchill High School.

The Observer

Irrational dress code suppresses spectator spirit

In preparation for CHS’s first home football game of the year against Whitman, I painted myself royal blue and kelly green—our school’s colors. I arrived at the game amped, proudly showing off the big “C” on my chest. Within five minutes, however, I was told to put a shirt on because I was not allowed to “show any skin” at the game. Although we were up big at the start of the fourth quarter, many students had already left. Why shouldn’t they? School spirit was being discouraged at CHS.

Apparently, this year, there is a change in enforcement of a rule relating to a traditional icon of high school sports: shirtless boys showing their school spirit with body paint. Citing the dress code, CHS staff has begun forcing shirtless boys to cover-up. Girls presumably are now also prohibited at sporting events from wearing cut-off shirts that expose the stomach for body painting. Every CHS sport, just not football, will have some of its most spirited spectators squashed.

So what exactly do the rules say on the subject?

The CHS Parent Student Handbook

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mentions nothing about a dress code at sporting events under its “sportsmanship” section. There has been no formal announcement of a new policy on the subject. Whatever the official position of the CHS administration may be, students as recently as last year have been allowed to go shirtless. The fact that students came to the opening home football game with body paint speaks to the fact that they were not expecting it to be banned.

According to the 2012-2013 MCPS Student’s Guide to Rights and Responsibilities, students may not dress in a way that “is likely to cause disruption to school activities, causes disruption to school activities, endangers health or safety, is associated with gangs, is lewd, vulgar, obscene, revealing, or of a sexual nature, or promotes the use of drugs.” Schools are given leeway on their own dress code policies, but cannot create limitations outside of these specified boundaries.

By one interpretation of CHS’s dress code policy, male students going shirtless during school hours in school is clearly not allowed, but the reason the dress code exists is to prevent classroom distractions. Surely there is no practical explanation for extreme enforcement of a dress code at athletic events if no obscenity is involved.

If the dress code were truly in effect at all times and circumstances, then girls should not be allowed to wear prom dresses that break the rules, and students should not be permitted to come to school in Halloween costumes one day a year. In these cases, exceptions to the rule are made to allow for harmless fun.

CHS administration reportedly believes that there is a gender inequality dimension to this issue because female students cannot go shirtless.

Enforcing different rules for covering male and female students’ chests is policy-making based on anatomy, not discrimination. Consistent with our community standards for nudity, students should be able to use body paint at sporting events.

After contacting all MCPS high school security leaders, I have found that at least six other high schools in the county allow boys and girls to paint their upper bodies to support school teams. The use of body paint was not disruptive or associated with fans getting out of control at these other schools’ games or at past CHS games.

As MCPS policy dictates, dress codes are decided by individual school leadership. CHS administration, however, has made no announcement of the policy change, nor can any evidence of it be found in the student handbook. Why the change, CHS? What do we accomplish by stopping those who harm no one and enjoy themselves, all while showing everyone how much they love their school?

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Irrational dress code suppresses spectator spirit