HoCo student’s thoughts on dress code: Has it gotten stricter?

Abby Rothrock

It’s important for students to have the opportunity to express themselves through clothing, and for the most part, Howard County Public Schools have tried to give students the chance to do so. This year, however, some students around the county are coming forward and revealing that the dress code enforcement within their schools is becoming more strict, and that it seems to target female students. 

Particularly, students at Marriotts Ridge and Atholton students have mentioned new dress code restrictions surfacing around their schools. Rose Aquila, a junior at Marriotts Ridge even started a petition to bring awareness to the situation, including a message saying, “Today on the 3rd day of school, Marriotts Ridge High School has announced to bring back the dress code without warning. Many women got unfairly dress coded today. The school has had no problem with “midriff” for many years but is becoming more strict for no valid reason. Midriff clothing is not distracting to students and it has no evidence of affecting academic success. This dress code rule is unfairly sexualizing women’s clothing.”

On Aquila’s petition, there are various comments from students explaining why they signed it. One student wrote, “I’m signing because at Atholton High School, people are being dress coded for their midriff and the only reason is because ‘it’s the policy’,” while another student claimed to have signed the petition because they “got dress coded today for less than an inch of my stomach showing. My shirt isn’t distracting anyone from learning, all the dress code seems to do is bring girls down to make them feel insecure and embarrassed.”

But the question remains, is this dress code really “new” and if so, is it being applied fairly at every school around the county? Policy 9210 states that the dress code has been in effect since 1 July, 2019, so throughout the county, technically there have been no new dress code changes. Aquila believes that the reason Marriotts Ridge in particular has gotten stricter with enforcing dress code this year is because of a change in leadership.

 “They didn’t care until we got a male principal,” Aquila claimed, after noticing that many schools treated it differently. 

Centennial, for example, has reportedly been much more relaxed about students’ choice of clothing. Centennial sophomore Jenny Min and Junior Rachel Middleton both explain that they have not heard of anyone in the school being cited for a dress code violation this year. 

Aquila explains that since “students aren’t happy with this [dress code] change”, and it seems to be unfairly targeting girls, she feels that a change is necessary in order to preserve the comfort levels for all students. 

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