RUMFORD — Dress code revisions proposed by student councilors received an uncomfortable response from some Regional School Unit 10 directors during their April 11 meeting.

The Mountain Valley High School students offered the revisions, but some on the board said they weren’t comfortable with some of the requests or how they were written.

After a lengthy discussion, the board of directors decided the proposal would be reviewed again during its 6:30 p.m. meeting on May 2 at Buckfield Junior-Senior High School.

During the April 11 meeting, the board heard from Mountain Valley senior Alana Young, who attended along with several others from the school’s Student Council. The students said they had been working since November on revisions for the high school’s dress code.

Young told the board that the students had met with RSU 10’s policy committee and that they had “worked really hard on (making revisions).” The group sent out surveys and had meetings with teachers and the student body to discuss proposed alterations to the dress code.

Some changes would include allowing “no more than two inches of midriff/torso showing,” whereas the original policy had no allowance for revealing the torso area. Other revisions stated that “the lowest part of the neckline of shirts must meet the top of the armpit; sides of shirts must meet the armpit,” and that “shorts and/or skirts must fully always cover the butt.”

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As directors reviewed the revisions, they prompted many questions for several directors, including Michelle Casey of Buckfield and Abbey Rice of Rumford, who said they were not comfortable with some of the revisions. Rice noted that although she would make herself “unpopular in my own home and with other folks,” she was not comfortable with students wearing “tube tops” as shirts at school. Casey agreed, saying tube tops and strapless garments should remain “prohibited” in the district, as they are in the original policy.

Lisa Russell, a MVHS educator and leader for the students’ dress code group, told the board it is difficult for teenagers to find stylish clothing “that doesn’t allow some midriff” and that the revision of shirts with the “lowest part of the neckline at the top of the armpit” would ensure less body exposure.

“So, there’s nothing on the sides (of the chest) being exposed, and shorts and skirts have to always cover the butt. We went back and forth on that. It’s very hard not to sexualize anyone or body shame anyone.

“The biggest thing was trying to take out that old language that really pointed the finger at female students and the way they dress and a little bit of body shaming, to be honest,” Russell said. “So that’s really what it was about.”

Some board directors expressed varying views of how specific the dress code policy should be, as Greg Buccina of Rumford noted “there’s just too much gray area sometimes to put into a policy; I just don’t think we’re going to cover it all.

“So, I think we need to come up with something that will work maybe 85 to 90% of the time, to be as self-explanatory as possible,” Buccina said.

Director Peter DeFilipp of Mexico noted that he felt the revisions “put a little bit on the student to use sound judgment and respect for themselves and others when they’re dressing (themselves).

“If they’re doing something that is showing their underwear, then that’s not really showing respect … or my idea of respect,” DeFilipp said. “(But) my judgment is (probably) different from someone else’s.”

However, DirectorChad Culleton of Hartford said there should be more clarity in the dress code rules. “I think it’s really important for us to give a clear policy, not only for the students but for the teachers that have to administrate this policy.”


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