Selma High Dress Code Causes Confusion

Sakshi Palav, Co-Editor in Chief/News Editor/Co-Sport's Editor

According to many students, Selma High School dress code is a misleading and problematic system. The policy has three separate documents for dress code: two that are online and one in print that create a pathway for miscommunication between administration members, staff, and the student body. Not only do these three different documents contradict themselves, but the different sources show examples of the confusion and misinterpretation they cause throughout Selma High.

The dress code violations and consequences vary depending on the dress code document. The first document is from the 2019, student handbook which was revised this past fall. Some of the violations on this source are “saggy jeans, gang-affiliated clothing, beanies/hats, and revealing clothing.” These violations result in the following consequences: 1) a warning, 2) a lunch detention and parent contact, 3) and either Saturday school or a parent contract, or both.

The second document is the parent handbook on the Selma USD website, which was revised last in 2007. The violations in this source list infractions that are not in the student handbook such as baggy clothing, shirts with slander or crude language/printing, shorts and skirts that aren’t mid-thigh, and shirts that have straps that are smaller than three inches. In this document, no consequences are listed, but it does say that the district will rely on the site administrators’ opinion to decide when a student’s clothing is “detrimental to a positive school environment.”

The third document is the online student and parental handbook, which is also on the Selma USD website, and was last revised in 2007. This source has the same exact violations listed as the online parental handbook. However, this handbook’s consequences are different than both the student handbook and parent handbook. In this source, the sequence of consequences for breaking the dress code are 1) Saturday school, 2) another Saturday school, and 3) 1-5 day suspension, behavior contract, referral for defiance of authority, and a parent conference. These consequences are harsher than both previous documents.

These three documents clash with each other because while the student handbook has the newer, most recently cleaned up violations and consequences, the parent handbook has more intense violations with no consequences listed. Then document three, the online student and parental handbook, has the same violations as the parent handbook online, but has consequences that are more extreme than the student handbook. Even in the student office, the school keeps the old dress code printouts along with the new ones.

“They [the sources] should all be in sync with one another,” said Mr. Collazo, one of the school’s learning directors.

Selma High’s Principal Mr.Lopez said he was aware of the three separate and contradicting documents.

“Yes, so unfortunately there’s a Selma Unified School District dress code that also applies to essentially all schools, but then also [all schools in the district, including] the high school. So, currently along with the discipline protocols in the whole district, it’s also one of the ones to be adjusted.”

While Mr.Lopez is aware of the contradicting dress code documents, he explains why and how the issue is being handled.

“My approach is always progressive. I make sure that our campus administrators and staff members are consistent all across the board,” he commented. He explained how he had noticed the unnecessary offenses in the dress code last year, like camouflage and ripped jeans, when students were simply wearing what they had available at home or what held sentimental value to them.

According to all three documents, the dress code is designed to “prevent students from hazards to their health or safely.” Every staff member on campus can call out an offense, but not every staff member carries out the procedures the same way. Allegations have been made by multiple students, ranging from freshmen to seniors, of staff not dress coding consistently. While some get Saturday school and lunch detentions on the first offense, others are absolved and receive multiple verbal warnings on simply fixing the issue.

As all three documents do counter each other, it is evident that the procedures are not very well known by the school staff. Some staff members give out dress codes based on the old documents, while others refer to the newly edited one.

“Different teachers dress code different things, as if they don’t know what to go by,” said sophomore Aileen Lopez. “Sometimes it’ll be getting dress coded because of the thin straps, but then other times they’ll say that it’s okay as long as undergarments aren’t seen.”

She feels that the dress code policies are unclear, and even offensive, especially based on how she’s seen her friends and others get dress coded.

Another student, Jasmine Juarez also recognizes this problem.

“The dress code restrictions are unclear,” said Juarez. “Multiple teachers have explained to my classes that they’re getting emails on how the updated dress code for girls’ allows for straps ‘as long as you can’t see the undergarment straps,’ yet admin staff has consistently still dress coded for straps that’ve been well within the newly revised document.”

“Our whole thing is to promote the best as we can,” said Mr.Lopez. “Some of the staff here, as you know, have been here for maybe 10 to 20 years. We had enforced the new dress code to them after its changes, but they began dress coding according to the old dress code, because that’s what they’re accustomed to.”

According to Mr.Wisely, Assistant Principal of Selma High, the most recently revised dress code, which is in the student handbook, is in place to better fit society and social norms today.

“We saw the change in style and fashion, then revised it [the dress code] this spring, during the PBIS meeting. We especially revised the discipline plans,” commented Mr.Wisely.

The newly updated versions don’t give a Saturday school as a first offense because the district, school, and parent committee felt that that was too extreme of a consequence for the first violation.

“We all acknowledge—the administration and staff along with me—that the consequences were a bit too harsh,” Mr.Wisely also said.

While the new policy which is in the 2019 Student Handbook has been created to allow students, especially female students, to feel more comfortable, less pressured, and less conformed at school, the violations and consequences of the student handbook dress code contradict the other two.

“This year the dress code has seemed more confusing to me,” said one freshman, who wished to stay anonymous. “Some teachers dress code me on shorts, even if they fit the new three inch inseam rules. I still get dress coded like it’s last year.” This dress coding seems to occur because some staff members dress code based on last year’s violations, one being that shorts have to be mid-thigh, instead of the new violations, which states that shorts have to have a three-inch inseam.

Another example of this unclear system is the daily bulletin. In the bulletin, which students are emailed daily, it states that “a violation of the dress code policy will result in Saturday school.” However, in the student handbook, which is the official handbook, it is written that the third offense is a Saturday school, not the first or the second. This announcement contradicts the official dress code because the email says that any violation will result in an “immediate” Saturday school, but Saturday school for dress code violations are only to be given after the first two disciplinary actions. The bulletin warning gets treated as a traditional verbal warning which is not official protocol, but is the policy admin pushes. However, when talking to Mr. Wisely, the school Assistant Principal, the first warning is supposed to be a verbal warning, which is supported by the Selma High website.

Although students are divided whether the sources differ due to the lack of communication between the school officials or just lack of care, they pose and create inconsistencies within the school.