A new dress and grooming policy for Cherry Hill public schools is proposed


Jillian Koenig ('24)

The proposed dress code permits a variety of clothing that are excluded in the current policy.

A new dress and grooming policy for Cherry Hill public schools has been proposed by the Board of Education in response to student voice. In creating the proposal, the board aimed to remove any gender-targeted language found in the old policy, giving students more freedom to dress and express themselves as they like.

“This dress code really broadens as opposed to narrows students’ opportunities to dress in a way that’s comfortable for them,” said Assistant Superintendent for Compliance, Equity and Pupil Services LaCoyya H. Weathington in the Board of Education meeting on September 6, 2022.

It was the voices of Beck Middle School students that were the biggest push for the reform. Asking to meet with Weathington, a group of students discussed with her their concerns with the current dress code.

They had a lot of concerns about the dress code being applied to girls more frequently than to boys,” said Weathington.

The old dress and grooming policy seemed to place restrictions on mostly the female gender by restricting bare midriffs, bare sides, tank tops, miniskirts, and short-shorts.

The girls were upset that they were being taken out of class, causing them to lose class and learning time based on the way that they were dressed. 

“They talked about [the] many restrictions on what they could wear and what they could not wear. They talked about the sexualization of young girls. They talked about making girls’ clothes the issue as opposed to dealing with behavior. They talked about how they felt it was unequal. They put a lot of effort into their presentation,” Weathington said.

Many students across the district agree with these students’ opinions. Liz Reyes, Cherry Hill High School West’s Student Representative to the Board of Education, shared her issues with the code in the September meeting.

“I do feel like girls were targeted in the dress code a lot, and I just learned to go with it, but it did feel as though sometimes there would be moments where I was like, ‘Oh, I did want to wear that dress, I did want to wear that hat.’ I just think it’s a really good thing that the entire board is paying attention to the student voice and what the Beck students did –  I think that’s an amazing thing” Reyes said.

Not only did the Beck students express their concerns, but they also provided a potential solution to the problem.

“They actually recommended a dress code which is pretty identical to the one that we’re using,” said Weathington.

The proposed dress code uses more open language. For example, it states students must wear shirts or dresses that have fabric on the front and sides and that clothing must cover undergarments – excluding waistbands and bra straps. 

The new policy allows hats and headwear, a controversial restriction of the current policy. The old dress code did not allow the wearing of hats, and head coverings – excluding those for religious purposes – while the proposed dress code allows these as long as the student’s face and ears are visible to staff.

“The safety piece stems from the ability to identify folks, especially from cameras. But as long as we are able to see someone’s face, we can recognize them. So the hat refining isn’t obstructive to doing that,” said Cherry Hill High School East principal Dr. Dennis Perry.

At East, the current dress code is not strictly enforced, so the potential adoption of the new dress code will not be a drastic change. The new dress code will, however, give a clear set of guidelines for students, families, and teachers to refer to. There have been some disputes with the current dress code since the rules give different guidelines than what is being followed in school.

“I think that our non-enforcement of the current dress code has caused some consternation for some,” said Dr. Perry.

By putting in a new dress code that is in line with what is actually being followed in school, there will be less confusion about what is allowed and what deserves repercussions. 

Overall the policy has had very positive feedback. 

“I think a lot of people will be very happy with this. I know there’s multiple groups at East that have advocated for this, sent in letters, and done surveys. A lot of people have been upset with the past policy and should be happy with the new policy,” said Cherry Hill East’s Student Representative to the Board Aiden Rood.