John Jay Students Pioneer the Revamp of the Dress Code


JOHN JAY EDUCATIONAL CAMPUS, CROSS RIVER, NEW YORK— The Katonah-Lewisboro School District’s relationship with the dress code is ever evolving, with revisions made to it in the last two years that the student body is largely unaware of.

Two years ago, in the Middle School’s home base period, students were reviewing the JJMS handbook with their teachers. This book outlined rules of dress that seemed to state that students were not permitted to wear leggings.

Mrs. Monica Bermiss remembers this pivotal moment in the handbook’s history, explaining that after this conclusion was made, students challenged the current dress code in the May 17th Board of Education Meeting.

Scott Posner, the vice-president of the Board of Education, described the previous dress code stating, “it’s very specifically targeted towards one gender and I don’t necessarily think it’s appropriate.”

Posner suggested the Board of Education should reexamine the reasoning behind writing the dress code. He further explained that when writing the dress code the intent is to “keep the educational process moving along… and wearing a plunging neckline, short shorts, whatever, saying that’s distracting from the educational process… well, who’s educational process? It’s not distracting from the student who’s wearing it but the student who is reacting to it inappropriately.”

This meeting resulted in a revised dress code that was implemented first in the 2018-2019 school year and includes more gender neutral and general language.

Mrs. Bermiss stated that since the revamp of the dress code “minimal students have come to see [her] about it” and in the only case she could recall “the conflict was resolved without the student having to change.”

Unfortunately, the old dress code has lingering effects, as current high school students remember the former middle school dressing restrictions with contempt.

In a survey of 107 current John Jay High school students, 40.6% of students stated they were dress coded in Middle school (with all of these students attending the middle school while the previous dress code was enforced).

Kaitlyn Machado, a Junior at the high school recalls her run in with the dress code in 8th grade vividly, stating “It was really hot so I wore shorts. [said teacher] said ‘excuse me can you put your stuff on the ground and put your hands down to your legs’ in the middle of the hallway… everything was covered but in 95 degree weather I had to wear pants the rest of the day.”

Machado further mentioned that “when someone mentions middle school or 8th grade, that’s one of the more distinct memories.”

Katie Labriola, another Junior at the high school remembered a similar instance with the same 8th grade teacher, explaining “I was wearing shorts, [said teacher] slipped me a note that said Katie you are beautiful but you cannot wear those shorts.”

These two instances were not unlike those of the other 43 dress coded students, as the leading cause of conflict was short length, with strap thickness coming in close second.

These quarrels regarding modesty (largely with females) ceased to exist in the high school long before the revision of the handbook in 2018.

Chief Frank Secret, John Jay’s police officer, recalled the last time the dress code was enforced at the high school explaining: “when I was here the first time [circa 2001] there was this big thing about the dress code… can your mid-drift show… it was mostly a girl thing but that seemed to be resolved and everybody came to a happy medium.”

The past enforcement of the dress code varied incredibly throughout the two levels of schooling, as in the previously mentioned survey of current students, only 0.9% (one student) said they have been dress coded at the high school level. Keep in mind, students in grades 12 and 11 attended the high school when the previous dress code was in place.

Before the revamp of 2018, the JJMS and JJHS dress codes were nearly identical on paper, but the middle school enforced stricter regulations. Now, the two schools have come to almost equally enforce the less restraining dress code, indicating a great change.