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ND school's dress code, mostly affecting girls, draws heated debate

DICKINSON, N.D. - Changes in Dickinson High School's dress code prompted heated debate on a Facebook page oriented toward Dickinson residents Tuesday, though school administrators feel the outrage is overblown.

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Two Dickinson High School students work with Shonah Kinzel on Thursday afternoon in the main office. Dustin Monke / The Dickinson Press

DICKINSON, N.D. – Changes in Dickinson High School’s dress code prompted heated debate on a Facebook page oriented toward Dickinson residents Tuesday, though school administrators feel the outrage is overblown.

Parents of students, along with unrelated adults, wrote hundreds of comments arguing for and against an updated DHS policy concerning the wearing of leggings and yoga pants, both popular articles of clothing for girls and women.

A second comment chain appeared Wednesday with a similar prompt.

AreaVoices: School’s dress code is rotten for so many reasons

While school administration says the dress code as a whole is intended to help students feel comfortable in school, DHS student Andrea Ivey said the reasoning she had heard for the recent policy changes was that some of the formerly allowed attire was “distracting to the guys.”


Fellow students Dylen Ollila and Tyler Mickelson said they had heard similar rationale.

“I’ve seen things that people say, that boys should be able to control themselves and girls should be able to wear whatever they want,” Mickelson said. “Well, not whatever, but be comfortable.”

Despite some social media pushback from parents, Assistant Principal Jay Hepperle said students had so far responded “surprisingly well” to the updated code.

“The dress code’s not a new thing around here, obviously when we get information like there’s a thread on Facebook or there’s some community involvement, we actually want the community to talk to us about that,” he said.

Hepperle said the DHS student handbook, which outlines the dress code and other information relevant to students and their parents, is reviewed annually by a committee consisting of students, staff members and administration.

That review process also included the school’s Parental Advisory Council, he said, and is approved yearly by the Dickinson Public School Board. The next meeting, which Hepperle said takes place at noon Sept. 17 at DHS, is expected have discussion about the dress code.

“We don’t want anyone to jump to the conclusion that this is what we are just coming up with in my office,” Hepperle said. “It’s not just a principal issue. This isn’t just our issue, this is what the students and the staff and the community, through a (parent advisory council), are all a part of.”

He said disciplinary measures for violating the code would frequently take the form of teachers “chatting with” students considered to be dressed inappropriately.


The next step of escalation would be a trip to the front offices, where students dressed outside of code would have to change into school-provided shorts or sweatpants.

Sending a student home for dressing in a non-compliant fashion was not the objective of the code, Hepperle said.

“We want kids in school,” he said. “Our main goal with anything, whether it’s discipline or not ... we want to keep them in school, we want them to be educated. That’s the point of this institution.”

Hepperle added that the code was written to apply to both sexes.

Ollila, Mickelson and Ivey said they had known of peers who had been sent to the school’s office to change, though they said they had also seen some of their peers continue to wear the supposedly prohibited attire.

None of the three spoke favorably of the code.

“It’s more or less banning something because of somebody else,” Mickelson said. “‘It’s ‘Boys can’t control themselves, so girls can’t wear certain things.’”

Social media debate largely centered around the line of the code that prohibits skin-tight or spandex leggings, yoga pants or “jeggings” worn “by themselves as the only item covering the lower body.”


“Pants of this nature must be accompanied by a longer garment covering the lower body, such as a longer/oversized shirt or sweater, dress, or skirt that extends past the buttocks,” the handbook states.

DHS student Ayana Freeman said “the leggings issue” had been a bigger deal last school year, but she had since gotten used to the new standards.

She believed other students had not yet acclimated, however, and described the topic as “a big debate.”

Freeman and two other female students - both wearing leggings or yoga pants - said that while they could understand why such an updated code was implemented, they did not agree with the male distraction concern they saw as the reasoning behind it.

“If they can’t control themselves, then that’s not really my problem,” Freeman said.

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