Most high schools have some sort of dress code that defines what students are allowed to wear during the school day. But whether those codes should carry over into athletics has been debated at a number of schools this year.
One of them is Lansing (N.Y.) High School, where a new clause was recently added to the school's code of conduct that reads, "The school dress code will be enforced throughout the sports seasons and pertain to each team, extracurricular activity, and club. It will be allowable for student-athletes to wear game or competition style clothing during practice. Otherwise the dress code is in full effect, i.e. girls need to adhere to covering sports bras ... and boys need to adhere to shirts being on."
Anticipating that the clause might not be well received, Athletic Director John Taylor met with the school's Captains' Council to discuss the topic. "This gave the captains an opportunity to speak their minds, and also gave us an opportunity to explain ourselves," Taylor says. "Making the team leaders aware of the decision early on was very helpful in the process. It's an interesting subject, and I'm glad the kids were able to offer their input and hear our reasons."
Nevertheless, when the new clause was discussed at a Board of Education meeting, many upset students and parents packed the high school library to argue against it. They felt that athletes who remove their shirts during practice are not doing so to show off or be provocative. Rather, they are simply trying to stay comfortable. There was so much discussion that the board was forced to expand the time normally allotted for public input.
"As a former runner myself, I understand the desire to run with your shirt off when it's hot out," says Taylor. "But you have to think about the image that boys with their shirts off and girls in sports bras is casting to the public. We don't want people who might be drawn by that coming to our campus.
"A student wouldn't walk around school all day long without a shirt on, even if it was hot in the building, so the same rules should apply after school," Taylor continues. "I'm not sure if we've convinced everybody that it was a good idea, but people do understand and have accepted our thought process."