Dress code enforcement sparks outrage

Social media this week has been flooded with student responses to a recent enforcement of dress code.

Although dress code policies are the same this year as they are every year, staff members seem to be enforcing them more strictly, leading to many upset students.

The main object of attention and most common dress code violation is shorts that are too short. In particular, loose Nike running shorts have become a subject of dispute. This has led to many students making the argument that the shorts are weather-appropriate, and pointing out that they attend a school in Florida where the air conditioning isn’t always fully functional.

Many students are also pointing out a particular staff member in this situation: assistant football coach Jimmy Sapp, who was hired this year to assist the Office of Student Affairs.

“To be showing that much skin in an education institution is … there’s just zero tolerance,” Sapp said regarding the recent violations. “I think any parent that would come here and see that wouldn’t be fans of the administration here, if we were allowing students to walk around like that.”

Despite some speculations, Sapp is under the same instructions as all other staff members. “[The staff] just had a meeting and everyone’s been instructed to do the same thing,” said Principal Gary Brady. “There have been some things that haven’t been enforced fully. I think it’s better to be really on top of it at the beginning, so kids will know what we’re looking for.”

The punishments for dress code could also be potentially changed.

“I’m creating an Excel spreadsheet, so I’m actually going to have an account of who is the habitual offenders,” Sapp said. “If you have ‘X’ amount of times that you do it, there’s going to be Choice Room. After that, we’ll try to move to some positive enforcement, a school beautification project where we’ll have kids and pull them out of their period [to] help out the custodians. After that […] we’re going to go to out of school suspension.”

Even though suspension is being talked about as a punishment for dress code, “[administration’s] goal is to never suspend anyone for dress code,” Brady said. “We just don’t want any distractions.”

And despite enforcement on the school level, the dress code is a Hillsborough County policy. At the beginning of the year, students were given the link to find the county’s Student Handbook. “Mini-skirts, mini-dresses, and short shorts shall not be permitted,” states a portion of the Dress Code policy in the handbook. “Hemlines shall be no shorter than fingertip length.”

Students are taking actions to let both administrators and the county their issues with this policy. Junior ErrDaisha Floyd has created a survey to gather other people’s opinions on the matter, and is researching the pros and cons of having a dress code.

“Once I have finished my research, I am planning to write a proposal offering alternative solutions to the enforcement of the policy and the rules in general,” Floyd said. “After I submit it to administration, if a petition is needed to further the actions, then I will do that as well.”

Another junior, Dayan Vizoso, has also spoken out about the matter. Last Friday, Vizoso wrote a blog post, explaining why he and those who agree with him are frustrated over this situation.

“It is not distracting for a student to see a shoulder, nor is it distracting to see a girl’s legs,” he wrote. “The distraction lies in the fact that girls are being perpetrated as breaking rules because they are wearing shorts that correlate to the hot weather and humidity of our state of Florida.”

And these opinions are not uncommon.

“I feel the district policies are vague and dated and this year it’s being enforced word for word, and sometimes beyond district policy,” senior Madeline Morgan said. Other students are more upset with the possible gender bias behind these policies. “Some male students wear sleeveless shirts or short shorts, yet dress code for them is not an issue,” sophomore Ethan Pham said.

Despite many complaints, not all students are fully against the dress code. “I feel most times administration does this for the good of the school or because they think it’s to install a certain level of respect and professionalism,” freshman Rita Benkirane said.

How administration will respond to these objections to both the dress code policy and faculty enforcing it remains unclear. “We’re only one week in and everyone finds his way. He’s doing a great job,” Brady said of Sapp. “We meet every week and certainly we’ll debrief but for now he’s a great extra pair of eyes.”

In the meantime, however, student frustrations continue to grow on both sides of the debate.

Marin Fehl and Reema Patel contributed additional reporting. Featured illustration by Jacob Kirchheimer.