Dress Code Policy Debated At Harbor City Int’l School

Some Female Students Call Policy Sexist

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A dress code uproar at Harbor City International School in Duluth came to the forefront of discussion Tuesday at a town hall meeting.

“We’ve been made to spin around in a circle, show him our outfit from all angles while he scrutinizes every little bit of our bodies. And it’s really uncomfortable,” explained Keira Amelia, 14, and a freshman at HCIS.

Both male and female students, along with teachers and administrators, were all in attendance for the moderated discussion about the potential change of the charter school’s dress code policy.

Some female students flat out call the policy sexist and feel they’re being unfairly targeted as a distraction to male students.

“Mr. McGlynn told me one day the way you present yourself on a daily basis is very edgy. I’d like you to move away from the edge. And I was like, what, edgy? He’s called us unprofessional, inappropriate, provocative, distracting,” Amelia said.

Amelia and her best friend, Galalee Wright, 14, feel the charter school is stressing them out when it comes to how they and other girls dress.

“Everyone’s self-conscious as a teenager. So it’s really difficult to come to school and be scrutinized on your outfits on a daily basis by administrators,” Wright said.

Below is the dress code policy provided Paul McGlynn, executive director of HCIS.

“We recognize the necessity for attire to be respectful and appropriate for school. In all work environments, appropriate clothing is expected. Because we want you to be successful now and in the future, it is important that you practice this now. See specific guidelines below:

• Exposure:
o No low cut tops
o No skin exposed at the midriff
o No under garments visible, including undershirts, bra straps, spaghetti strap tops
o Skirts, dresses, tunics and shorts must fall at mid thigh or be worn with opaque (not see-through, even when stretched) leg coverings
o Skin tight leg coverings must be covered at least past your butt
o Sheer clothing must be worn with appropriate (dress code approved) under-layers
o No pajama pants or sleepwear

• Safety and Hygiene:
o Clothing must be clean and in good repair
o With the exception of religious headwear, hats are allowed on Fridays only
o Remove and store headwear out of sight upon entering the building
o Face coverings including masks and sunglasses are not allowed at any time
o All jackets and coats intended as outerwear must be left on hooks or in cubbies during the school day
o Students must wear shoes

• Harassment and content:
o Clothing or accessories that promote hate groups, gangs, or communicate a message of hate, violence, racism, sexism or are otherwise derogatory to any group are not allowed
o No obscene, offensive, explicit or suggestive content
o Content that is illegal for minors is prohibited

Students who violate the dress code must replace the inappropriate item(s). If not available, the student must go home to change or a change of clothes must be brought immediately to the school. In the event a student goes home, the school will make a reasonable effort to contact a parent or guardian to inform him or her that the student has been sent home. Staff retains discretion to make a decision in disagreements and will make every effort to enforce our expectation respectfully.”

“We want to say, hey, this is a school that has high standards, but at the same time is a compassionate school, a welcoming community,” explained McGlynn.

While McGlynn wants the welcoming environment, he acknowledged Tuesday that there’s been a disconnect between some students and administrators.

“I think you have to be really careful how one implements a dress code. And we certainly learned that the last couple of months,” McGlynn said.

But he followed up to say the discussions to improve are happening, especially with the town hall meeting on Tuesday.

“Our hope is to come out of this with a whole community; no one feeling separated; no one feeling disrespected; no one feeling that their voice is not being heard. That is our hope,” McGlynn said.

After the two-hour meeting Tuesday night, Wright’s mother, Adeline Wright, sent this written response of disappointment:

“I felt that the town hall meeting was not conducive to the kind of healing and reparations that the students and their families were seeking.

The affected students had to share tables with the very same staff, who have reported acting inappropriately or unfairly, and the meeting moderators did not structure the meeting in a way that acknowledged the obvious power differential between students and staff.

We feel that the meeting was not democratic, because the teachers often dominated the conversations and were largely dismissive of the students concerns.

No reconciliation was reached, and we left the meeting feeling like we wasted our breath. HCIS has a lot to contemplate, this has been difficult for everyone involved, and I do not believe much clarity was achieved tonight.

I fear for students who were brave enough to speak their opposing viewpoints in the presence of their teachers and administrators.” — Adeline Wright, mother of Galalee Wright.

McGynn, however, told FOX 21 he felt good about the meeting and said parents and some students signed up afterward to be on a so-called dress code committee to help form suggestions for possible changes to the policy.

Those suggestions will then be sent to the school board for consideration.

McGynn said the updated policy most likely would not take effect until the next school year because there are less than five weeks left of the school year.

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