By KREIG KOHL
Special to the PRESS
September 15 saw a special meeting of the Point Isabel Independent School District School Board. The meeting was held to go over board member safety training and a presentation and update on the student dress code.
The board began the meeting with public comments, which can be on either agenda or non-agenda items, so long as they sign up prior to the meeting and list what they plan to address.
The public comments opened with Abbie Mahan, a resident of South Padre Island. Mahan serves on two committees in SPI and applied to be on the dress code committee, but was not appointed to it.
Mahan began her public comment saying, “When I was in eighth grade, I was sexually assaulted by three boys in class during school hours. My male teacher responded to it by telling me if I didn’t dress that way, it wouldn’t have happened. I was thirteen or fourteen years old. Twenty-five years later, we are still telling our girls that they are responsible for the focus and behavior of males.”
Mahan continued on to say, “My experience made me feel many things, but most of all, it was embarrassing, belittling. It was humiliating and it made me very angry. This is how our girls feel every day going to school with the current dress codes and how they’re enforced. When they get dressed in something that made them feel beautiful, strong, confident and unique that morning, they are met with the dress code telling them that they are a distraction and that they are inappropriate.”
Mahan rhetorically asked the board what is to be done and whether or not dress and hairstyle is part of the freedom of expression. She referenced many schools with laxer dress codes and said, “As long as there is not a material or substantial distraction caused or a safety issue there should be no reason to ban certain styles or garments.” Mahan concluded by asking the board to table the item if they have not had enough time to properly consider the ramifications of the decision.
The next speaker was Katie, of South Padre Island, who began by making it known she had questions for the board and was wanting answers to questions she had emailed about before.
She said, “I really want to understand the reasons behind the rules. I’m curious about what research was done to conclude that these rules are beneficial to the children of the community.”
After bringing up studies that have been performed in the last few years, showing how strict dress codes have a negative impact, she brought up self-expression saying, “School uniforms not only restrict students’ freedom of expression, but they promote conformity over individuality and self-exploration. Further studies have shown that there is no direct positive impact on academic performance and have no effect of preventing bullying of any sort at any age.”
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