by Alex Friedrich
Content Warning: This article mentions sensitive issues such as sexual assault.
When the new school year at the Chicago High School for the Arts (ChiArts) began, students and staff were excited to be back in person. However, the dress code was one thing that made students uncomfortable and distressed. The dress code included rules about no halter tops, no pajamas, no durags, no bonnets, and more.
Many students feel as though the dress code is unfair and doesn’t address the larger issues in the school. They have spoken their minds with posters hanging around the school that say, “Address the assault.”
Jadon, a junior musical theater major, said the signs were meant to express how the dress code sexualizes femme-presenting students. They said, “When the school tells us that this is appropriate they are sexualizing us. This also plays into rape culture. It continues this idea that it’s a woman’s fault for being sexually assaulted.”
Many students are concerned that the dress code is seen as a way to police victims of assault. Students feel that they are disrespected and their voices are not being heard. This has caused a demand for clarity on how the school handles assault cases.
Even students who have graduated view the dress code negatively.
Alumnus Enama Samuels said in a statement, “It’s disrespectful; its focus is misguided and it’s more harmful than helpful.”
Even with time to reflect, students still feel as though the dress code is not beneficial to their education. Students should not leave ChiArts feeling like the school put harmful policies in place.
When current students were asked if they felt attacked or uncomfortable due to the dress code, Jadon said, “I feel like my body is seen as a sexual object.”
I interviewed Principal Terri Milsap to see if she could address these students’ concerns.
When asked if the dress code was related to sexual assault claims, Milsap said, “When I heard that, I was really shocked because one has nothing to do with the other.” She then went on to say that the dress code was already established before she came here, but was not being strongly enforced.
Milsap added, “The dress code was never meant to make students feel uncomfortable.” She then went on to say, “Someone should be looking at your attire, not your body.”
Even with this understanding, students are having trouble understanding the goal of the dress code. When asked, Milsap said, “We want our students to understand what is appropriate for certain work environments.”
Milsap also said that students can come to her office and bring up any concerns they have.
Even with some of these concerns addressed, students need to know that they have a safe work environment. They need to feel comfortable when they come to school and leave feeling respected. The dress code is bringing up other issues that students feel need to be addressed. If you have any concerns or issues with the way ChiArts handles things, you can go to 105A located next to the main office.