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Author Topic: discrimination in school because of my "style"
belowzer0
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i'm 15 and i attend a small, rural highschool in North Carolina. my freshman year i was "normal", i.e. wore pretty abercrombie clothes, long blondish hair, ext. but i was so miserable then, with myself and my "friends", so over the summer i got new, better friends, and adopted my OWN style of dressing. my new style is sort of a mixture between gothic and punk, i always wear black. i cut my hair short and dyed it black too. but i'm so much happier now.

i'm a straight A student, always have been. i'm in the beta club, i'm soft spoken, polite, and respectful. but since i've changed the way i dress, school admisitraters have started treating me like trash. like i'm a strung out drugged up delinquent who's always up to no good. which is ironic because the year before, when i was "normal", was the only time in my life that i had ever done drugs continuously. i get singled out over ridiculous things, like the so called dress code. today, for instance, i was given a day of in school suspinsion for my shirt, when i had been through 3 classes without any one saying anything, but on my way to fourth the vice principal stopped me in the hall and started getting all mean, then sent me to chillout. when i started crying in there because he was talking about me like i was bad he told me to stop acting and to go "whipe that crap off my face" (he was refering to my eyeliner-i draw designs on my face with it to match my outfits).

my point about today was that there was nothing wrong with my shirt, and i had seen preppy girls wearing stuff ten times as worse and getting away with it. but for some reason its ok for them to do it.

well anyway. my question is, should i talk to my parents about this? should i confront the school board? because other kids that i know that dress like me complain about getting singled out as well... or should we just suck it up and except that life sucks? i'm just worried that if they keep writing me up for stupid things that it will damage my record and ruin my chances at med school...

sorry this was so wrong...i'm still upset, i needed to vent. thanks for reading and for any and all advice given.

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Eyes.are.feeling.heavy.but.they.never.seem.to.close.The.fan.blades.on.the.ceiling.spin.but.the.air.is.never.cold. -yellowcard


Posts: 19 | From: xnorthxcarolinax | Registered: Oct 2003  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
logic_grrl
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quote:
i get singled out over ridiculous things, like the so called dress code.

The first question has to be: are you actually in violation of the dress code? If you are, then that makes it hard to complain, even if other people are getting away with "worse".

If you're not in violation of the code, but you're getting into trouble anyway, then I'd say you do have a good reason to complain.

However, whether making a complain to the school board would be a wise move or not is another question - sometimes making a complaint over something that seems "trivial" like clothing can get you see as a "trouble-maker". Horribly unfair, I know - but it's a possibility you need to consider.

If you parents are understanding and supportive, it would be a very good idea to talk to them and see what their take on this is and what they advise.


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belowzer0
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am i in violation of the dress code? i don't think so, i'd seen girls wear similiar tops all year, and never get in trouble, so i figured not. the shirt was plain black and highcut, but the sleeves were mesh. my boobs/bra/whatever weren't hanging out, so i don't see the problem. my teachers, who know me and like me, didn't say anything to me...so again i assumed it was ok. and its not just the dress code thing...its other things. i get dirty looks from them [most teachers], i'm always one of the first to be accused of smoking in the bathroom (i don't smoke), and when things get stolen i'm often accused as well. the big thing that happened that i forgot to mention was that the school had "reason to believe" that there were illegal drugs in the school...and i (as well as some of the other kids that dress like me...and a bunch of black kids, which is also a big issue here) were the first one's who's locker and bookbag's were searched.

they never found anything, btw.


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Eyes.are.feeling.heavy.but.they.never.seem.to.close.The.fan.blades.on.the.ceiling.spin.but.the.air.is.never.cold. -yellowcard

[This message has been edited by belowzer0 (edited 10-21-2003).]


Posts: 19 | From: xnorthxcarolinax | Registered: Oct 2003  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
logic_grrl
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Is there actually a written dress code specifying what's okay and what's not, or are the teachers just using their own judgement?

It certainly sounds like they're discriminating - I'm just trying to get a picture of the situation.


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BruinDan
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The problem with a lot of what you are saying is that it appears anecdotal. It's one thing to say that the African-American students had their lockers searched first, but it's another to have witnessed it and have evidence to support your claim. If you are basing this on anything other than firsthand knowledge, you're going to run the risk of slandering your school administrators...and that is not going to help your cause any.

Let's face it, we are constantly judged by others. Nowhere is this more true than in a job or school setting, where we are surrounded by superiors. If you stand out in any way, you can expect to be highlighted. Much the same way football heroes are worshipped, those of us who dress in certain ways get treated quite the opposite. It is the way of the world, and it is part of the reason we are urged to be "presentable" and don "appropriate garb" when we go for job interviews.

And the same goes for school. In the classic DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince tune "Parents Just Don't Understand," young Prince decries his mother's belief that "school is to learn, it's not a fashion show." Sure, maybe parents don't understand. But in the Fresh Prince's case, his mother was wise. We go to school for the purpose of learning, and it is the sole intent of school administrators to make sure things go smoothly. So we end up with seemingly inane dress codes (when I was in junior high school, we could not wear anything black because local gangsters had a nice habit of taking potshots at us if we did, and the administration considered that a liability) that we complain about as "cramping our style." From their point of view though, someone who draws things on their face could easily be considered a distraction, and teachers and administrators already have more than enough distraction on their hands!

High school tends to be all about playing a role. I did not notice this until I was in college, and I certainly don't expect you to understand or agree at this point. But I think time will prove this theory correct...that we act a certain way in high school because we are filling a role. There have always been jocks, there have always been bullies, there have always been geeks, there have always been cheerleaders, and there have always been outcasts. I played the role of hellraiser when I was there, because nobody else did and there were times when people just needed a good laugh. My brother played the smart role because he could, my other brother was Homecoming King. We fit ourselves into little niches where we feel content, and then the chips fall where they may. And while I agree that it's never fun to be treated unfairly, I might suggest thinking outside your present situation for a second, and realizing that the administration has a role to play too. Based upon what you've said yourself, it certainly sounds to me like they're playing it, even if hearsay suggests they do so unfairly.

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BruinDan, "Number Three," PHOM

Beware the naked man who offereth you his pants.


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belowzer0
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i guess so...i'm wonting to recall the supreme court case, tinker vs. demoine (i think that was it)...but i suppose you're right. but it just makes me so angry. it's unfair to huge proportions...the closed minded rednecks in this county need to get over 50 years ago and accept that the times have changed...blah.

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Eyes.are.feeling.heavy.but.they.never.seem.to.close.The.fan.blades.on.the.ceiling.spin.but.the.air.is.never.cold. -yellowcard


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lilmsirishrage
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You can find some information about first amendment rights and how they apply to school dress codes here http://www.firstamendmentcenter.org/speech/studentexpression/topic.aspx?topic=clothing_dress_codes_uniforms

The Supreme Court has never looked at any cases concerning dress code challenges, though. For the most part, school boards are given the right to determine regulations of clothing. Tinker vs Des Moines Public Schools was slightly different. If a school decides that a particular style of dress will be offensive to others or will be a distraction to the "learning environment," it is allowed to ban it. But, they cannot ban clothing based on random or unjustified fear (which is why Tinker won, I believe...there was no basis to say that armbands would cause a lot of problems). School students generally do not have full first amendment rights if exercising such rights detracts from the goals of the school. I'm not saying I agree with a lot of the dress code rules I saw in high school...this is just what I found from studying it in law class =)


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belowzer0
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thanks for that link

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Eyes.are.feeling.heavy.but.they.never.seem.to.close.The.fan.blades.on.the.ceiling.spin.but.the.air.is.never.cold. -yellowcard


Posts: 19 | From: xnorthxcarolinax | Registered: Oct 2003  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Gumdrop Girl
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quote:
well anyway. my question is, should i talk to my parents about this? should i confront the school board? because other kids that i know that dress like me complain about getting singled out as well... or should we just suck it up and except that life sucks? i'm just worried that if they keep writing me up for stupid things that it will damage my record and ruin my chances at med school...
[/B]

speaking from experience, your performance in high school will have no bearing on your admittance to medical school. HOWEVER, i sure hope you plan on outgrowing the goth phase because you are going to find that in the professional world, you are going to deal with a lot of scrutiny in terms of your appearance. Don't like that? tough luck! the admissions boards do care about how you look.

Currently, i bleach my black hair in blonde streaks. i know i can't keep this up forever because in a year and a half, i will be applying to medical school. I've already talked to a lot of doctors, faculty (technically, I am currently a student in the Keck School of Medicine at USC, but I'm studying preventive med at the moment), and a lot of other students who all tell me the same thing: tone down your look. those streaks will not be looked upon favorably by the admissions panels.

Yeah, discrimination on the basis of appearance is alive and well in the real world, and while you may not like it, you can either keep fighting it to your detriment, or you can suck it up and deal. Frankly, if it means i have to choose between wearing my vinyl fetish gear and wearing a stethoscope, i'm taking the stethoscope.

so yeah, before interviews begin, i'm going to be dyeing my hair back to its natural color.

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BruinDan
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quote:
Originally posted by lilmsirishrage:
But, they cannot ban clothing based on random or unjustified fear...

And this extends to all things that schools do, not just banning clothing. They cannot conduct "unreasonable" searches without justifiable cause to do so, and they cannot conduct seizures or confiscations without that same justifiable cause. Even though civil liberties are heavily curtailed on school grounds, there still exists a standard of reasonableness that the school administrators must follow while performing their duties. Even though it appears that they had enough cause to do what they did, it's still worth keeping that at the back of your mind. It never hurts to know your rights.

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BruinDan, "Number Three," PHOM

Beware the naked man who offereth you his pants.


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Zeekaz190
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I Know what u mean ppl piss u of because how you are. Remember YOU are Who YOU are, Don't Change it! I am 13 and i Have pretty Long Hair (Not Like Girls, But Just.... Stickin OUt)I Always Get Teased By Every1, Like My Family and My New nick name is "fr'o" and "ELMO". But That Deputy Should'nt have acted like he did. If i were you i'd go to your Principle, Chaplin, Counsellor ect.... and discuss the matter.
Hope it helps.
Zeekaz

Posts: 6 | From: Ozzi Ozzi Ozzi, OI OI OI | Registered: Oct 2003  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
ChitarraRegazza
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I think that the most valuable thing that I learned in high school is how to deal with people who love stereotypes. (Certainly made more of a difference in my life to date than talking about books that I read in elementary school, at least). I was also the freaky looking presumably troubled teen in the honors classes, on the math team, and in the cheerleading squad (pretty amusing list, eh?). Being able to defy expectations gracefully (ie without yelling "LOOK! I'M GOTH AND I HAVE A 4.0!") is a skill that will be really useful throughout your life.

For example, one of my teachers is a raging sexist. He actually took to calling the one girl in the junior class "Token Female" instead of using her name. I'm in a program (sound recording) that has an 8:1 male to female ratio, and the one out there in the real world is much higher. The way to handle this stuff when dealing with a specific person is usually to just prove your competence. Usually, people aren't going to come straight out and say, "You can't do this because..." If they do, that's the time to politely correct their misconceptions. I don't mean to say that you should never speak out- just that in one on one interactions, it's normally better to be nice about it, so the person is willing to reevaluate instead of steaming about what a bitch you are. Like in the situation with the locker searches, the people who searched have been confronted with evidence that they're wrong about you guys; going up and saying "hey asshat, just because I wear black doesn't make me a coke addict" would just have pissed them off and given them something to think about other than the fact that they're wrong.

So- be loud at the protest, let your views be known, let your merits speak for themselves in situations like these. And remember that thinking for yourself rocks, and having the strength to be true to who you want to be is something that too many people only wish they have.

-Catie


Posts: 25 | From: mass and ny | Registered: Oct 2003  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Etch
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I am all for being who you are and standing up for you rights. However, it doesnt work that way in the adult world. It just plain doesnt. It probably never will work to be outside the social norm and be able to be a professional.

I have piercings. Well, had. I still am upset daily because to me those piercings were a part of who I was. I got all of them after the age of 18. But when I decided I needed to get a job so taht I could support myself I quickly realized that I would get nowhere fast if I wasnt willing to look professional.

Not to mention, I plan to get internships in the psychology field to help me get into Graduate school. You think anyone is going to give me an internship if I have a lip ring? Yeah right. You have to look the part. Its the real world. It always has been, and probably always will be. If you want to be treated like everyone else then unfortunately you have to be like everyone else.

Being gothic/punk/whatever is entirely your choice and such style is not necessary to race or religion or anything else. Its not like being african american or islamic.

This is a really hard subject for me because my piercings were very important to me. I took a lot of time, care and money in planning them, and now I can only get away with hidden ones. But what is more important to me is being succesful. My dream is to become a clinical psychologist, to do that I want to get into a good graduate program, an unfortunately they do look at your appearence.

Now, if your idea of success is to work in counter culture then great! If it wasnt so hard to get a piercing apprenticeship I would consider becomming a piercer and could have as many as I wanted.

And just as a final note. A friend's uncle is a PhD philospher who tried to get a job at a prestigious private college (dont remember which one). He had his nose and several ear piercings. He removed them all during the interview for the position. They flat out told him that even though he is well qualified they would not accept him on the basis that they could tell he had piercings. This is definately not so for most universities, but this peticular one thought it would be a bad influence.


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Zeekaz190
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quote:
Originally posted by Etch:
And just as a final note. A friend's uncle is a PhD philospher who tried to get a job at a prestigious private college (dont remember which one). He had his nose and several ear piercings. He removed them all during the interview for the position. They flat out told him that even though he is well qualified they would not accept him on the basis that they could tell he had piercings. This is definately not so for most universities, but this peticular one thought it would be a bad influence.

2 wordz: Legal Action

Posts: 6 | From: Ozzi Ozzi Ozzi, OI OI OI | Registered: Oct 2003  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
MarvellousPurple
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...however, to sort of counteract what everyone else said, high school (and usually college) are the perfect oppurtunities for expressing yourself however you want.

the trick to this in high school is to be pretty much spotless in all other ways. I had purple hair for most of my senior year, and didn't get any flak about it. ever. why? i'd never gotten in any real trouble there, was on good terms with most of the administration, and had really good grades. whilst having unnaturally colored hair, i got into a really good out-of-state school, gave a speech at graduation, and got hired at a few jobs. (my hair is still unnatural colors.) i got to college, and no one ever batted an eye; most people (professors and admin included!) think my hair is the coolest thing ever.

now, it's not very likely that i'll try to get a professional job or into grad school with funkily colored hair. i'm not quite that brave. but my point is, have fun while you can, but know where to stop.

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got a haircut, got a silver tooth
gonna get myself arrested


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Blue Roses
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Like has been already said, if you can find a copy of the dress code and prove that you're not in violation, then take it to someone in authority. If not, you're really just going to have to deal with it.

Personally, I dye my hair interesting colours occasionally, though it's always just temporary, as otherwise it kills my hair. Other than that, I like having reversable appearance weirdness, such as walking around in cloaks and such...that way I can express myself outwardly around people who do similar things, and then be more standardized in formal situations, and know that underneath all the formality, I'm still me :-)


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