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KUNR Youth Commentary: Local students express concerns about school dress code

A close-up of gray lockers in a high school hallway.
Alexa Ard
KUNR Public Radio
Some students in WCSD want to see changes to the dress code

For a commentary on local school dress code, KUNR Youth Media reporter Stella Cole talked to students in Washoe County about their experiences with the rules and how it has impacted student mental health.

According to Washoe County School District, the dress code is in place to ”maintain a productive, safe, learning environment,” but some students say it lowers their self-esteem and affects their learning. Reagan Caffaratti from Reno High School has personally experienced this.

“I did get pulled out of class for going against the dress code. Even though I was wearing tights and like you could not see anything. It was very disruptive to me. It kind of ruined my day,” Caffaratti said.

Students have steadily begun protesting the code over the past five years, including at Robert McQueen High School in Reno. Willow Valdez organized a demonstration last year. Students gathered on the quad and did schoolwork silently. She said some demonstrators purposely broke the code.

“We brought our homework and books with us, and we sat down at the table, and we continued to do our work,” Valdez shared. “It was kind of proving that regardless of what we’re wearing, we can still educate ourselves, and we can still be like respectful and attentive, and it isn’t bothering anyone else.”

Valdez said she wishes adults would show more compassion towards students. She said dress codes can be especially harmful to students who are already struggling with mental health.

“We’re people as well, we’re not stupid, because we’re kids. We still have things to learn, but we still know what we need as people,” Valdez said. “And I think that in some way, like, that gets lost somewhere between the relationship of a student and a teacher. I think respect just has a lot to do with it.”

Ultimately, Valdez, Caffaratti and Cole would like to see the school district’s policies change so students can express themselves and their identities.

Stella Cole is a senior at Reno High School and a participant in KUNR’s Youth Media program, a special partnership with the Washoe County School District to train the next generation of journalists.

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