Lake Placid students call for changes to school dress code
District admins plan creation of ad hoc committee
LAKE PLACID — The Lake Placid Central School District Board of Education will form an ad hoc committee of students, administrators, parents and other school district stakeholders to discuss possible changes to the high school’s dress code.
Four Lake Placid high school students approached the board of education this past Tuesday to voice their concerns about the school’s dress code policy. The school’s hat policy was a central topic in all four of the students’ speeches — the students argued that hats are confidence-boosting and fashionable. However, three of the students brought up their personal discomfort with the current dress code policy, particularly how it’s enforced with female students.
Freshman Abby Light said the school’s policy does not account for different body types, and one person wearing the same shirt as their peer might get “dress coded” while the other doesn’t, simply because they have a different body type. She also said that the stereotype surrounding dress code policies is that they are enforced with female students “to keep the boys from getting distracted by seeing our skin.” But White said she feels it’s the teachers who are getting distracted by the dress code.
Sophomore Carly Karpp said she feels the “cover up” aspect of the dress code sexualizes young women’s skin. She said that as a 15-year-old, she’s found that this is the time when young women start to deal with body issues and confidence, and it doesn’t help when a 50-year-old teacher tells them to cover up. Karpp said she has seen teachers enforce the dress code with the reasoning that the policies help to prepare the students for the real world, but Karpp said to prepare students for the real world, she believes teachers should show them how to be kind and respectful of one another.
“They should not be telling girls to cover up, but teaching peers to keep their eyes to themselves and be respectful,” she said.
Sophomore Emily Kostoss echoed Karpp on that point.
“If the school is really trying to protect me from the ‘wandering of peers’ eyes,’ they would not try to hide my skin, but educate students on how to respect others regardless of what they are wearing or not wearing,” she said. “If the school was really trying to protect me, they would understand that if they monitor my skin that is already oversexualized … I will still be focused on wandering eyes. Why is my stomach skin so sexualized?”
Light said the dress code policy has been a problem among students for a while, so at the beginning of this school year, the teachers and administration talked to students about creating changes to the dress code through the appropriate processes, starting with presenting their speeches to the board of education to spur the formation of an ad hoc committee.
English teacher Amy Spicer helped interested students form their speeches. Light said she thinks of those teachers as allies for her and her peers; she said they realized the students wanted to make a change to the dress code, so they helped them to do it. Light said she personally hasn’t had specific negative experiences with being dress coded, but she wants to speak for other young women who have.
“I’d like to advocate for those who don’t want to speak or feel like they can’t,” she said Sunday.
Board members discuss
The board revisited the students’ comments in the discussion portion of the meeting, where board members and LPHS faculty and staff provided their input. Regarding the hat policy, some meeting attendees said that the current hat policy should remain for professional and safety reasons, while others sided with students and wanted to amend the policy to make students feel more “welcome” as they walk in the school. Last year, during the onset of COVID-19, the hat policy was revoked. This year, the hat policy was reinstated.
“Pandora’s box was opened here … so naturally there’s going to be a questioning period,” said LPCS District Superintendent Timothy Seymour.
Public input on the dress code largely focused on the hat policy, but board member Colleen Locke briefly addressed the comfort and safety aspects of the dress code raised by the three girls. She agreed that students with “wandering eyes” should be addressed, but she also said that what one wears to the beach or “by the lawn” might not be appropriate for school.
“We do need to teach them there are different circumstances and you dress for different things,” she said.
Given the variety of feelings on the dress code, Seymour offered to form an ad hoc committee to evaluate the dress code and determine “current community standards on proper decorum.”
“That would be a way for this to be addressed in a respectful manner … but would also allow the remainder of the code of conduct to be adopted by the board if the board felt that was appropriate,” he said.
School board President Rick Preston agreed and said he wanted to “empower” Seymour to form a committee. He said the committee could include board members, students, parents, faculty and staff and any other relevant stakeholders. He also said the committee’s evaluation process doesn’t need to be long, but should include all the stakeholders’ input, because issues around the dress code come up “almost every year.”
“You start with the three fingers, then go to the two fingers, and you know, what have you,” he said.
Light is currently running for secretary on the LPHS student council, and she said she wants to get involved with the ad hoc committee that will evaluate the dress code policy. She reiterated on Sunday that the students don’t want to scrap the dress code, they just want to update it to reflect modern trends and to account for different body types. She said students are prepared to put in the time and effort to make those changes.
“If you want a change to happen, you have to work for it. It’s not just going to happen overnight,” she said. “We wanted the dress code policy to be changed, so we took steps to do it and we’re still in the process of trying to fix it. And we’re getting somewhere, so that’s better than nothing.”
Seymour said he will give a short presentation at the next board of education meeting on how they should best form the committee.