Northeastern approves new dress code over student-led opposition

Meredith Willse
York Dispatch

Nearly 300 students signed an online petition to fight Northeastern School District’s updated dress codes, setting off a controversy over a policy some described as sexist.

The petition, started by a self-described Northeastern student, said the new dress code changes included a ban on tank tops and leggings, which the organizer said were described by school staff as being immodest. The York Dispatch could not reach the organizer or any of the 295 reported students who signed the petition for comment on their claims about how the new requirements were being enforced.

Superintendent Stacey Sidle said she was aware of the petition but contested some of the claims made in the petition.

“The wording [about tank tops and leggings] is from no dress code that we have,” she said. “So I’m not sure where it came from.”

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Comparing the new dress code with last year's, the most significant changes include a requirement that every student's back and stomach be covered and a ban on wearing blankets and pillow cases in school. The new dress code removed language from last year's policy banning hoodies that covered the crown of students' heads during school.

During an Aug. 15 school board meeting, newly seated member Debra Riek asked how and why the administrators wrote the policy. 

Sidle said there were concerns about the dress code last year across the grade levels. 

“Students weren’t allowed to wear hats," the superintendent said, citing one example, "where at the high school they were allowed.”

The administration met for long periods to build a new dress code that would treat all students fairly, Sidle said, adding that the dress code does not single out a gender for its policies. 

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Riek, citing her own daughters' experiences with dress codes, replied: “I just don't want that to be an over-policing of, ‘I can see a bra strap, and now we’re having some trouble for the rest of your time.’”

Board President Mike Redding said he didn’t see anything in the dress code that would be a source of concern similar to Riek's example. 

The board ultimately passed the updated student handbook with the new dress code unanimously. 

— Reach Meredith Willse at or on Twitter at @MeredithWillse.

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