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Students Protest Dress Code

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Students staged a sit-in in the Learning Center in Wauwatosa West before and during the beginning of first hour Thursday.

Beginning at about 7:45, approximately 25 students gathered at the tables in the Learning Center to protest the school’s dress code. They specifically objected to the administration’s requirement that a student’s shorts come down to the student’s first knuckle. In the past few days, the administration has sent home several students and told others to change their shorts after determining that the students violated district policy with the length of their shorts.

Students organized the sit-in with social media. Junior Julia Kennedy created a Facebook group called GASD – girls against school dress code. Senior Kaitlyn Hembrook organized fellow students to protest using Twitter, labeling tweets about the sit-in with the hashtag #gasd. She also contacted TMJ4 about the protest.

Principal Frank Calarco believed that the sit-in was an inappropriate way to address the issue.

“This was not the way to go about addressing your concerns,” Calarco said to the students involved in the sit-in.

After speaking with the students until about 8:05, Calarco dismissed the students involved in the sit-in to their first hour classes. The students were marked tardy unexcused to their classes, but no further disciplinary action was taken.

Calarco agreed to meet privately with juniors Julia Kennedy and Audrey Waln and senior Kaitlyn Hembrook, three of the students most vocal in their opposition to the dress code.

District Superintendant Dr. Phil Ertl, who was at West for the PTA breakfast in the morning, and Associate Principal Clint Grochowski also witnessed the sit-in.

Speaking after the sit-in, Calarco said that he hadn’t expected to see students organizing a sit-in to protest the dress code.

“One of the things I want the students to understand is how to talk to me,” said Calarco. “All the students had to do was come to me. They didn’t need to do a sit-in.”

With regards to the rule itself, Calarco said his position isn’t set in stone.

“I want the students to question the policies,” said Calarco.

However, he said the district was unlikely to change its policies before the school year ends.

“Things will not change for this year,” said Calarco.

She said she felt the administration hadn’t done enough to consider the opinions of the student body.

“We should be encouraging our students to be heard and listened to,” said Kennedy.

Kennedy said she intended to open a dialogue with the administration about the dress code with the sit-in.

“A lot of times, when students are told that their clothing doesn’t fit the code they don’t respond reasonably,” said Kennedy. “We wanted to make sure that the administration understood that there were people who want a civil conversation about this.”

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