Laney Wenzel speaks to the school board regarding the Warren County School District Dress Code on April 24, 2023. Photo by Brian Hagberg.

Students Ask School Board to Revisit, Revise WCSD Dress Code

April 25, 2023

RUSSELL, Pa. – Four Beaty Warren Middle School students addressed the Warren County School District Board of Directors Monday night to request the district revisit and revise the current dress code.

While each expressed their own thoughts on the dress code, there were a couple of common themes in each statement. The ability to find shorts that extend below mid-thigh, the ability to be comfortable in their clothes, and that dress code enforcement (specifically at Beaty) was a bigger distraction to their education than the clothes were mentioned numerous times.

“Our education was disrupted and we were treated unkindly,” Laney Wenzel said. “We would appreciate being part of the conversation that makes a change in the dress code that supports learning towards all girls of all different bodies.”

This dialogue comes after dozens of students were sent home from Beaty for dress code violations on April 13 and 14 and after a student-led protest drew a response from WCSD Superintendent Amy Stewart.

“Myself and others are asking that the school board takes a look at the dress code, or at least how it’s being implemented, times are changing and so are we,” Sierra Craig said. “The dress code isn’t inclusive and neither is the way it’s being implemented. All we are asking is that the dress code be revisited.”

“Our schools and our parents have taught us our whole lives not to judge a person by their appearance or by the clothes they wear,” Brooke Sherry said. “But here we are being judged by our schools on the length of our shorts. Being told that shorts more than two inches above our knees makes us inappropriate, less educated, distasteful, or looking for attention. All of us truly believe that there needs to be a dress code but can’t we find a middle ground? One where we don’t have to dress like a middle-aged woman but also one where we don’t have any parts exposed.”

In a letter issued last week, Stewart said the district would be revisiting the dress code. She reiterated that stance on Monday and added that it would likely take place over the summer.

“I can’t think of a single store that sells comfortable, mid-thigh shorts,” Hayden Schuler said. “There are also families in our community with low income who cannot afford to go buy their daughters new shorts every time they grow.”

Stewart said a survey will be rolled out as part of the eighth-grade social studies curriculum to gain student input.

“Once we get things all wrapped up, we’ll be revisiting the dress code,” Stewart said.

One of the bigger points of contention between students and administrators was over the way the dress code was enforced at Beaty. Students said they felt “sexualized” when being told they were in violation of the dress code.

“The district also needs to focus on things that are truly educationally distracting,” Schuler said. “Like the lack of substitutes so that we’re spending periods of our day in an auditorium. Kids disrupting the class and disrespecting our teachers, and the building being placed on numerous holds. My question to you (the board) is ‘What is educationally distracting about the shorts I’m wearing?'”

Stewart said she did not see anything “inappropriate” in a review of the video footage from the school.

“I think another part of the problem is how the girls were approached, at least from what I was hearing,” Board member Marcy Morgan said. “Administrators could have a kinder, gentler approach when talking to people about their attire.”

Parents who wish to join the conversation about revisiting the dress code should email Stewart at [email protected].

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