BRISTOL, Connecticut, U.S.A. — Everyone is dressed the same at St. Paul Catholic High School.
A gimmick to boost school spirit? No, it’s the dress code that all students at the Catholic junior and senior high school must obey.
In all the press last year about the public schools’ ban on hats, the dress code impose on St. Paul’s 375-plus students got lost.
While students at Bristol Eastern and Bristol Central high schools complained about losing their right to headgear, St. Paul students grumbled over a tougher rule.
The new dress code dictates that students wear white or blue button-down shirts, and navy or khaki pants.
Girls may wear white or blue skirts. A pullover sweater, available in each of the school’s colors — red, off-white and navy — is optional. Sneakers are not allowed.
St. Paul has long had a dress code, but this is the first year that it has been so specific or strict.
A special committee consisting of administrators and teachers met last year to determine the new dress code.
“It was difficult to keep track of regulations,” said Principal Sister Joan O’Connor.
“We had forgotten that there was a dress code,” she said. “We thought it would bring about a situation where students could keep the dress code and teachers could enforce it without being preoccupied by it.”
O’Connor said, “The students, I think, are comfortable.”
Some students had other ideas.
“I think it stinks,” said one freshman girl. Her friends agreed.
None of the students interviewed for this story were willing to have their names used for fear of getting in trouble with school authorities.
“I don’t think we need to have one, and I don’t like it at all, but there’s nothing we can do it now,” said one junior. “I’m afraid of what would happen if I broke it.”
Several students seemed wary of the school administration’s power.
However, according to O’Connor, “teachers have said that students have a new pride because of the dress code and their behavior is different and better because of it.”
Students had mixed opinions.
“I don’t mind that much,” said one sophomore. “But I think that a lot of other kids hate it.”
“Of course, I came from an elementary school with a dress code,” he said. “And I don’t want the paper to print my name because I feel like a traitor” defending the code.
An increasing number of public schools nationwide are now incorporating dress code policies.
Rough schools cite lower rates of violence and rising grades as proof of the dress codes’ success.
However, St. Paul has never been a violent school.
Its administrators figure that if a school is good, it should only try to become better.
Besides, O’Connor said, “I think the kids look great.”
Brian LaRue is a Reporter for Youth Journalism International.