Teen’s Exposed Collarbone Sets Off Dress Code Controversy

Esther Crain
·Writer
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After Stephanie Hughes was sent to the principal’s office because her scoop-neck top violated the school dress code, her outraged mom took the controversy to social media. (Photo: Stacie Dunn/Facebook)

High school dress codes that forbid micro-miniskirts or butt-baring shorts are one thing. But what’s wrong with showing your collarbone?

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That’s what students, parents, and faculty at Woodford County High School in Kentucky are currently debating, now that the public school’s super-restrictive clothing policy has been called into question thanks to one mom’s viral Facebook post. 

It all started on August 13, the first day of school. That’s when Stephanie Hughes, a senior at Woodford, was sent to the principal’s office for wearing a scoop-neck top (with a long-sleeve blouse over it) that exposed her collarbone.

Collarbone-baring tops are off-limits at Woodford, along with above-the-knee skirts, midriff-revealing T-shirts, ripped jeans, and sleeveless shirts. The rules apply equally to boys and girls.

Stephanie’s outraged mom, Stacie Dunn, posted a photo of Stephanie on Facebook later that day, dressed in the same outfit she wore to school, and railed against the “ridiculous” dress code.

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“I had to come to the school because according to her school principal what she is wearing is out of dress code and inappropriate for school,” wrote Dunn.

“When I got there I found a group of female students standing in the office due to being out of dress code also,” continued Dunn. “Parents are being called away from their important jobs and students are missing important class time because they are showing their collarbones! Something needs to change!”

Dunn’s angry post struck a nerve on social media; it has since racked up more than 43,000 shares and hundreds of comments. 

Though it sounds old-fashioned, Woodford County’s dress code isn’t a holdover from the 1950s. It was actually instituted in 2005. “At the time, there were some fashion trends that were considered distracting, so students, teachers, and parents worked to come up with an acceptable code that wouldn’t squelch student creativity but wasn’t distracting,” principal Rob Akers tells Yahoo Parenting.

As for why a collarbone is singled out, Akers says it was just used as “a point of reference” to help faculty determine if a shirt was inappropriately low. “It’s not because anyone thinks the collarbone is dirty,” he says.

Akers wasn’t at Woodford County High School when the dress code was put in place, and it’s not set in stone. “Each year we’ve gotten complaints, and I’ve always said we’ll consider changing it if someone presents an alternative,” he says.

Change is on the way. Thanks to all the support she has received on social media, Dunn launched an August 14 petition on change.org to persuade the school to alter the dress code. By Tuesday the petition had more than 4,000 online supporters.

But Akers says the school has already agreed to revisit the dress policy in response to the media attention. A team of students, faculty, and parents are working on a proposal now that will be submitted to a school committee in a month.

He disputes Dunn’s account of the incident with her daughter, saying that there were “inaccuracies” in the story posted on Facebook but that he was bound by confidentiality laws. 

“When a student violates the dress code, we want them back in class as soon as possible, so we ask them to change or cover up,” he says. If they violate it again, they get an in-school suspension so they can continue to do their assignments, he says.

All the media attention is bringing change to Woodford County High School, which prides itself on its high ranking in Kentucky. “If a dress code is the worst thing anyone says about our school,” says Akers, “I’ll take that.”

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