Law & Justice

Montclair High School Dress Code Enforcement Sparks Student Protests

Credits: Cindy C. A. Pereira
Credits: Cindy C. A. Pereira
Credits: Cindy C. A. Pereira
Credits: Cindy C. A. Pereira
Credits: Cindy C. A. Pereira
Credits: Cindy C. A. Pereira

MONTCLAIR, NJ - A large group of youngsters were chanting, "Fight the sexist dress code" and “I am not my dress” shortly before 8 a.m. in front of Montclair High School on Thursday morning. This was allegedly in response to a large number of dress code violations issued by the school.

While a dress code is published in the MHS Student Handbook, ultimately, it is open to interpretation. In part, it reads: “Students have a responsibility to attire themselves in a manner that is conducive to an instructional and professional environment.”

Liv Dawson, a student in the crowd said, “Obviously we shouldn’t have our underwear out, but there’s a difference calling out a student for spaghetti straps versus for shorts where their butts are out.” Dawson added that it may also be connected to race, “A lot of the black girls get called out more.” When asked why she thought that was, she said she had no idea, and wasn’t calling any one racist but added, “It’s just a fact.”

Sign Up for E-News

Many protesters had signs and were marching in an orderly fashion up and down the sidewalk in front of the school. A few parents also stood by the sidelines. While Principal James Earle allowed the students to protest, he warned that instruction inside the school should not be disrupted, and that the students needed to stay on the sidewalk off the campus.

Constance DiMartino, a parent who was dropping off her child, said, “The school code is completely out of line. I trust my teenager to make the right choices. Most of these kids are two years away from voting. You can’t tell them how to dress.”

Crystal Straker Taylor, a non-protesting student walking by, said, “One minute we can have spaghetti straps, then they change the rules. They need to make it the same.” She added that she was unaware of anything that happened to prompt school administration to change the rules. She continued, “Nothing happened that I know of. They don’t want people thinking they don’t have rules. It’s more about the way they look. They want to impress people.”

While most expressed no objection to having a dress code, the opinions varied as to why the dress code was changed, whether it was fair and whether it is unilaterally enforced.

By the time the bell rang, there were at least 100 students, school security, the Principal and four police cars on the corner of Chestnut Street and Park.

On the website where the student-generated petition is hosted, student protest organizers wrote: 

"Right now, female students are being grossly sexualized at Montclair High School. The newly reinforced dress code disproportionately targets female students for wearing summer clothing, sending them home to put on more modest attire, despite the high temperatures inside of the classrooms. School is a place for learning, not a place where students should be removed from class in order to be reprimanded for dressing in the clothing that is made available to them and that society encourages them to wear. Frequently, female students are told to "dress for their bodies” which is an issue outside of the schools jurisdiction. Wearing shorts and a tank top does not impede upon a female student's ability to learn, nor should it impede upon the ability of a teacher to teach . This strict dress code perpetuates rape culture by suggesting to girls that their way of dress is punishable and justifies their sexualization. It suggests that it is their responsibility to dress modestly as to keep from “distracting” their male counterparts. This is a ridiculous sentiment and is offensive to both males and females. The true issue lies in a culture that sexualizes girls, not in the supposed tantalizing nature of spaghetti-straps."

At the time of publication, more than 1,000 people had signed the online petition. 



TAP Into Another Town's News:

You May Also Be Interested In

Sign Up for E-News


Philip Roth's Childhood Home Still Standing in Newark

May 24, 2018

Newark, NJ—The house at 81 Summit Avenue in Newark's Weequahic neighborhood is otherwise unremarkable expect for a sign attached to its faux flagstone facade noting that the home has been designated a historic site -- the childhood home of celebrated author Philip Roth, who died Tuesday at the age of 85.

There were no crowds outside the home to pay homage to the ...

Giamarese Farms and Farmers Against Hunger Grow Food for Those in Need

May 27, 2018

EAST BRUNSWICK, NJ - On a hot Friday morning before Memorial Day, volunteers were hard at work planting eggplant, tomatoes, beans and other veggies here in East Brunswick as part of an initiative by the activist group Farmers Against Hunger.  The plot on Fresh Ponds Road was donated by Jim Giamarese, and the labor was provided by corporate volunteers and local farmers.  ...

Upcoming Events

Tue, May 29, 7:00 PM

Montclair Public Library Auditorium, Montclair

Open Book/ Open Mind: CODE GIRLS with Liza Mundy ...

Arts & Entertainment Education

Tue, May 29, 7:00 PM

Studio Playhouse, Upper Montclair

Into the Woods Auditions

Arts & Entertainment

Letter to the Editor: Gum Litter and what YOU can do about it

May 16, 2018

Gum is non-biodegradable, meaning it doesn't’t break down ever….

Today, the unlikely problem surfaces. The average person chews 275 sticks of gum per year. With the amount of people in daily society, it’s no mystery why chewing gum is the second most littered item after cigarette butts.  Did you know that gum is banned in Singapore?

In addition to littering human ...

Montclair Police Blotter: Vandalism to Parked Cars, Mysterious Parking Meter Crash, and More

May 23, 2018

MONTCLAIR, NJ - The following blotter was compiled and released by the Montclair Police Department on May 22, 2018:

05-15-2018 (Orange Road) Mr. Danny Josama, 42yoa from West Orange, was arrested and charged with
05-21-2018 (Wellmont Theater) Mr. Marcelo Dasilva, 40yoa from Montclair, was arrested and charged
with Burglary and Criminal Mischief for entering the Wellmont ...

'Turning Off the Morning News' brings comic twist

‘Turning Off the Morning News’ tackles today’s issues with a comic twist

By Liz Keill

PRINCETON, N J – Despite the late night comics, no one quite captures the insanity of the political/social status world like Christopher Durang.

His latest play, “Turning off the Morning News” hit the ground running.  John Pankow as Jimmy addresses the audience, ...

'To Kill a Mockingbird' Sustains Timeless Appeal

SUMMIT, NJ – The Summit Playhouse provides a stellar production of a much loved classic, “To Kill a Mockingbird.”

The Harper Lee novel, later a Gregory Peck film and now a stage production, retains all the warmth, intensity and integrity that made it such an appealing hit in the 1960s. And there will be a new production on Broadway in December with a script by Aaron Sorkin ...

Grow an Abundant Tomato Harvest in a Pot

May 26, 2018

SOUTH PLAINFIELD, NJ - Harvest and enjoy the garden-fresh flavor of tomatoes right outside your kitchen.  Grow them in containers set on your patio, balcony, deck or stairs. You’ll enjoy the convenience of harvesting fresh tomatoes just a few feet away from where you prepare your meals. And your guests will enjoy harvesting fresh tomatoes to add to their salad or sandwich.

Tomatoes ...