Lewiston students: Keep dress code as is

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Lewiston High School students speak in favor of the current dress code, saying it’s encouraging respect. From left are Mackenzie Richards, Violet Mathieu, Davion Jackson and Abdul Mohamed. 

LEWISTON — After a community member questioned whether the dress code for Lewiston schools is appropriate, faculty and students have given an overwhelming, “yes.”

The dress code, created by former student Amanda Alberda, is working well, students and faculty say.

It helps generate “three things the school wants to create: trust, communication and respect,” Lewiston High School senior Abdul Mohamed told the School Committee on Monday night.

“It’s very clear,” said student Mackenzie Richards. “We’re not seeing huge problems. I want to encourage you to keep it the way it is.”

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That’s what the School Committee did.

The student dress code policy was revised after a research project led by Alberda, who now attends Boston College.

In 2015, Alberda said she and other females were humiliated when they were asked to stand in the lunchroom to see if their skirts or shorts were too short, and groups of girls were paraded to the office.

“I was chased down the hall by a person who wanted to measure my skirt,” she said.

The old dress code said girls’ skirts or shorts could not be shorter than fingertip length when arms were at one’s side, but that the policy didn’t consider different body types and it targeted females, she said.

She came up with a new, gender-neutral dress code that was adopted by the School Committee.

It says student dress must include a top, bottom and footwear; genitalia, breasts and buttocks are to be covered at all times. Underwear, with the exception of bra straps, are not to be exposed. Chests and midriffs are to be predominantly covered and navels must not show.

Lewiston High School Principal Jake Langlais shared a dress code survey taken of students, faculty and parents.

The survey was answered by 603 people, of which the majority were students.

Seventy percent said almost everyone dresses appropriately at the high school.

Asked if the dress code should be changed, 68.1 percent said no; 31.2 percent said yes.

“There were the ever-popular headphones, hoodies and hats,” Langlais said. Headphones, hoods and hats are not allowed and some students would like to wear them.

At the other end of the spectrum, “to my surprise, some said there should be uniforms,” Langlais said.

As he read opinions in the surveys, “what struck me big time is there are not many comments about what boys are wearing, but there are tons of comments about what girls are wearing,” he said, adding that reveals gender bias. “We have to be careful. There’s still an element about the girls.”

Langlais said if he does have to speak to a student about wearing something inappropriate, in most cases the student quickly corrects the problem.

The old policy meant students were taken out of class for hours as they waited to meet with an administrator or for a parent to bring them clothing.

The new policy allows a better focus on student learning, Langlais said. 

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