The Eastern New Mexico News - Serving Clovis, Portales and the Surrounding Communities

High School dress code comes under fire


November 20, 2016

CLOVIS — When a Clovis High School student arrived at school early for band practice last week, she didn’t expect to be sent home for what she was wearing. She also didn’t expect the response she got from the community.

CHS senior Morgan Jeffcoat said she was practicing scales Nov. 9 when a school administrator approached her and allegedly told her to go home and change her outfit because it violated school dress code.

Jeffcoat said when she was confronted about her clothes — a sweater over a pair of black leggings — she was “surprised and annoyed.”

The sweater was deemed too short.

“I’ve gone to that school for three years and have been dressing the same way the whole time,” Jeffcoat said. “I was upset that my school day and learning was interrupted, since going home and changing my outfit was more important than me being at school.”

According to CHS policy, a first-time offense of the dress code results in a warning, parent contact and a change of clothes.

The policy states, “When in the judgment of the principal, the student’s appearance, mode of dress, and/or cleanliness is distracting and disruptive to the educational process, or constitutes a threat to safety or acceptable standards of sanitation or does not meet the following regulations, the student may be required to make the requested modifications.”

But Jeffcoat and her parents maintain that her sweater was an appropriate length and the punishment was unnecessary.

Jeffcoat took to social media that day to express her feelings with a photo of her outfit. Many comments on Facebook from peers and parents showed a consensus of support and brought up similar issues faced with the school district’s dress code.

“I did not expect the amount of support I got on Facebook about my post,” Jeffcoat said. “Almost all of the comments were supportive of what I had said.”

One supporter in particular was Erika Alvarez-Reames, the mother of a CHS senior who’s also been sent home for her clothing.

“I’ve checked the dress code guidelines in the code of conduct handbook, and I cannot find a single violation within her outfit that day,” Alvarez-Reames said about her daughter. “The only skin showing below her neck was her arms ... The choice of clothing shouldn’t dictate whether my daughter or any other child can learn at school that day or not.”

Both Jeffcoat and Alvarez-Reames think the dress code isn’t applied equally to all students.

“I have some pretty strong feelings about (the dress code enforcement),” Alvarez-Reames said. “Just Wednesday, I went to pick up my daughter and saw a girl with jeans slashed all the way up to her hip. Obviously she wasn’t sent home.”

Jeffcoat noted the enforcement varies with body types.

“When I got dress coded,” Jeffcoat said, “there were at least two other girls who were also in the band hall who told me they were wearing the same thing I was, but they are shorter than me ... If a boy can’t pay attention in class because I’m wearing leggings or something that shows my shoulder, I shouldn’t be sent home for it; the boy should.”

Even CHS Principal Jay Brady admits the policy has its flaws and said it’s not always enforced uniformly.

“No,” Brady said, “as long as you’re human, it’s not going to be perfect. We do our best as a faculty and staff, and that’s our responsibility is to stick to the handbook and find a basic understanding of it. We’re human; we do our best to address (dress code violations). When we see it, we address it.”

According to the CHS Student Handbook, many types of clothing — some of which include midriff garments, attire associated with gangs or gang behavior, garments with obscene slogans or inappropriate artwork — are outright banned. Others require judgment calls.

As for leggings — like in Jeffcoat’s case — Brady said the school requires skirts, dresses or shorts of an appropriate length to be worn over them, referring to the regulation that states, “If a critical judgment is necessary, shorts, skirts, and dresses will be no shorter than mid thigh for boys and girls.”

Banning leggings or implementing a school uniform to avoid a gray area, however, is out of Brady’s control. He said the dress code is up to the Clovis Municipal School District.

“I don’t have the authority to ban anything,” Brady said. “Anything that fits the policy, we address. A uniform would be up to the board of education. They’d have to look at the benefits of that.”

Other Clovis Municipal Schools administrators declined to comment.


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