Pinkerton Student Starts Petition Against Uniform Dress Code

A Pinkerton Academy junior is learning an impromptu civics lesson as she tries to convince the administration that most of the high school’s 3,000-plus students are capable of choosing their own clothes and making them school-appropriate.
Savana Melanson of Derry has amassed more than 200 signatures on a petition asking school administration to reconsider instituting a Uniform Dress Code.

The Uniform Dress Code, which would allow students to select from an assortment of approved clothing, has been researched for months by the administration and was introduced in a parent meeting Sept. 26. Administrators believe that the Uniform Dress Code will level the gap between affluent and less-affluent students, help students to focus on academics instead of clothes, reduce the time administrators spend dealing with dress code infractions, and help promote a safer campus.
But parents in the meeting contended that the clothing proposed was too expensive, their children liked to express themselves, and the rule-breakers should be targeted instead of the entire student body.
Melanson, a junior at the semi-private school, believes the proposal would take creativity and comfort away from students who are cooperating with the rules.
Savana said she got the idea one night when a friend was visiting, and the two girls were commiserating about the possible change in dress code. Her mother, Lisa Buxton, said, “Why don’t you do something about it?” and Savana did, creating the petition, which now has 204 signatures.
“My mom,” Savana said, “said, ‘Why don’t you do something instead of sit around and complain?’”
Savana said she thinks the focus should be on repeat offenders to the current dress code, about 600 out of 3,000 students. “I don’t feel I should be punished,” she said.
On the day of her interview, she wore faded jeans, a soft brown sweater, and a pair of moccasins. It’s the way she usually dresses, she said, and it helps her feel good about herself.
The students have a verb for clothing infractions, “dress-coding,” and it’s something Savana and her younger sister Kristi, a freshman, try to avoid. “I would never walk out of the house in anything I thought I’d be dress-coded in,” she said.
Though Pinkerton has not yet chosen a retailer for the possible clothes, it used Land’s End as a working model for the Unified Dress Code. Savana was not impressed.
“The clothes are outdated, and they’re not flattering on any of the students who modeled them,” she said. “It’s nothing I’d see on a teenager – ever – unless they went to a ‘full’ private school.” Pinkerton is considered semi-private. Derry, Chester, Hampstead and Auburn tuition their high school students to Pinkerton.
“They’re too preppy,” her sister Kristi added. “It’s nothing I’d wear.”
And both girls agreed the outfits would not translate into after-hours. “I would never wear these for something outside of school,” Savana said.
Savana is concerned for her parents’ bank account, noting that Land’s End is “costly.” She figured it would cost about $700 to outfit her for the year and $700 for Kristi, resulting in $1,400 for the pair. Also, she said, she’ll be a senior next year and doesn’t want to invest in those clothes for only one year.
Other students wrote in the “comment” portion of Savana’s petition, “This will not change student study habits,” “We have a right to freedom of expression” and “It’s too expensive.”
Lisa Buxton called the proposal “horrific.” She’s concerned about the financial aspect, noting that she spoke to a parent in Massachusetts who has a child in a private school that uses the Land’s End catalog. “She shopped in the ‘discount’ section and still ended up spending $500,” Buxton said.
This year Buxton spent “maybe $100” on each of her girls for back-to-school. If they need something during the school year, they’ll pick it up later, usually on a sale rack, she said.
She’s also worried that she will have to shell out for another set of clothes for after-school. Both girls work part time, she said, and she’s concerned that their school clothes won’t translate to the working world. Kristi works in her grandfather’s machine shop, she said, and the khaki pants would get soiled. Savana works in a restaurant, where the khakis could also get dirty.
“I don’t think they’re looking at the big picture,” Buxton said. “To punish 3,000 students for a handful of kids?”
She has another solution, she said. “Buy one or two ‘uniforms’ for boys and for girls, and put kids who violate the dress code in them for the day,” she said. The unstylish clothing will teach them a lesson, Buxton predicted.
“But if your child walks out of the house in spaghetti straps and a miniskirt, that’s not my problem,” she added.
Lisa Buxton said she hoped to present Savana’s research if another parent meeting is held.
Savana said she e-mailed Headmaster Mary Anderson, but “didn’t get much of a response.”
Asked to comment by the Nutfield News, Anderson responded, “As we’ve stated in parent meetings and a survey, Pinkerton is interested in the perspective of people on both sides of the Unified Dress Code proposal. We’re reviewing all comments and we welcome constructive feedback.”
“I like looking in the mirror and thinking, ‘I feel good about myself and what I’m wearing,’” Savana concluded.

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