School Dress Code Letter Offends Students

“Sausage rolls.” “You can’t put 10 pounds of mud in a five-pound sack.”

Just a couple of word choices that stood out to me when I read the dress code letter sent home with seniors at Biglerville High School in Biglerville, Pennsylvania. If this language shocked you, the two of us weren’t alone.

According to ABC27 News, the letter was given to Biglerville High School seniors after their graduation practice, outlining how they should dress for their upcoming awards ceremony and graduation.

For boys, the suggestions of wearing khakis, dress pants, and a collared shirt are noted. If you’re wearing jeans, pick out nice ones, and make T-shirt choices wisely if wearing one of those. Make sure you pull your pants up! “Your underwear choices should be your own private choice and remain private.” Nothing too offensive here.

But here’s what concerning to me: The language that seems to be most offensive is really directed at the girls. It’s in one paragraph in particular, reading:

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“Choose modest attire. No bellies showing, keep “the girls” covered and supported, and make sure that nothing is so small that all your bits and pieces are hanging out. Please remember as you select an outfit for the awards assembly that we don’t want to be looking at ‘sausage rolls’ as Mrs. Elliott calls them. As you get dressed remember that you can’t put 10 pounds of mud in a five-pound sack.”

This also seems to be what caught the attention of Biglerville High School senior Brianna Burtop, who posted a photo of the letter online pointing out its inappropriate language.

“I didn’t know it was okay to insult your female students. Weight shouldn’t be used for comedic relief,” the teen wrote.

You can read a copy of the full letter here.

The school district did respond to the incident, and their response, which can be found on the ABC27 News article, explains:

“The document was drafted years ago, and the author of the original document has since retired. The document does not reflect the high standards of the Upper Adams School District, and the Administration will take appropriate action to address the issue. While we regret that the document contained some unfortunate word choices, we do respect all students and hope this does not distract from the dignity of the graduation ceremony and the accomplishments of our graduating class.”

I think the guidelines for the female students’ attire should have been handled with way more tact. There are ways to ensure your students – male and female – know how to dress for a formal event. But, insulting females’ bodies to shame them into covering up and feeling insecure is not the way. Don’t women grow up feeling enough of that from society, trying to be a certain size or look a certain way? Why is this school feeding into those insecurities by talking this way?

Regardless of the fact that the author had retired and the document had been written years ago, there’s no excuse for a school to be talking about female students’ bodies in such a way – ever. Past or present. Why did the school not edit this old document (which I would argue shouldn’t have even gone out to students like this when it was first written)? You’re telling me that nobody had edited or read this before they continued to pass it out to students?

Like Burtop told ABC27 News, “I just want the paper changed and for (the school) to apologize to these girls because as 18-year-olds, we’re all insecure and impressionable.”

The problem is that the school considered this language OK at some point, and it’s not teaching girls to “choose modest attire,” but instead encouraging them to be ashamed of their weight and their figures. And yet we wonder why teen girls can feel so insecure.

What do you think of this? Am I reading way too much into this, or am I justified in thinking it was out of line – along with the students who were offended?

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