DEVILS LAKE, N.D. — A Devils Lake High School dress code policy that inflamed some parents and students this week was only intended to reiterate appropriate clothing for school, said Superintendent Scott Privratsky.
The district’s dress code requiring yoga pants, leggings or tights to be “appropriately covered by other clothing” is the subject of some online talk after TV news segments aired Monday night and news and gossip blog Gawker picked up on the item.
According to the broadcasts, an assistant principal had girls watch clips from the movie “Pretty Woman,” in which the main character is a prostitute, and the new dress code is a way to prevent students from distracting teachers and other students.
The policy will not change in light of the media attention, and parents have been calling in to voice their support, administrators said.
The policy is in place so a student’s “back end or front isn’t showing” through material, Privratsky said.
He and Principal Ryan Hanson clarified that students are not banned from wearing the clothing to school. If students don’t follow the rule, a staff member will report them to the office and “it’s dealt with on an individual basis by administration,” Hanson said.
An assistant principal did have girls watch a clip from the movie “Pretty Woman,” but the intent was not to “make any inferences about students being hookers or prostitutes,” Privratsky said.
Although he didn’t attend the meeting when the clip was played, he said the intent “was to depict how people are perceived by how they’re dressed.”
The assistant principal was not available for comment.
Several staff members reported students hadn’t been following the rule, which prompted that special meeting earlier between the female student body and the assistant principal, he said.
In the policy, any clothing that causes “disruption to the educational environment” won’t be allowed. Shorts and skirts of “reasonable length” are allowed, and shirts must cover the mid-section and not expose skin, it states. A team of administrators, counselors, department chairs and teachers help develop the student handbook, which includes the policy, Hanson said.
But no students were asked for their input on the dress code policy, he said.
“However, they’ve been told that if there are items that they would like to bring to administration, by all means to do so,” he said. “That’s why they have a student council.”
Students were also advised of the change during a class meeting, a districtwide announcement and a student assembly, he said.
Hundreds of comments appeared on local TV news Facebook pages and Gawker about the story.
Several criticized the assistant principal’s statement that the dress code was one “way to prevent distracting teachers and other students.” Gawker referred to the administrator as “slut-shaming” and stated that one Devils Lake mother interviewed about the policy made a “good point about not forcing girls to take responsibility for boys’ behavior and sexuality.”
“If the young male teachers find it distracting ... they need new jobs,” wrote Sarah Robinson on Valley News Live’s Facebook page.
Privratsky said no one complained prior to the television segment. If people have a problem, he’d like them to contact the district directly, he said.
“I’ve had several calls from people telling us that they’re glad that the policy is being addressed,” he said.
In his eyes, the district erred by addressing all female students at once and not individually. He also said the policy announcement could have been handled better.
“We’re at a point where we need to correct or rectify the issues,” he said.