When you’re ashamed of your alma mater

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I graduated from Glenbard East in Lombard, Illinois in 2001. This is the place that I spent four years of my life a few lifetimes ago. I was an enthusiastic, involved athlete and student during my time there. I was a cheerleader for two and a half seasons, a student leader, member of the choir, president of an organization, and active member of several other groups.

But now, my alma mater has made national news. They’re trending for publicly shaming young women for wearing tank tops to school in the hot humidity of the midwest in a school whose relationship with air conditioning has typically been spotty at best.

Like the female students humiliated last week, I was also shamed for what I wore nearly 20 years ago. But I was not given a scarlet letter to wear. I was forced to don a school sweatshirt from my locker in 90-degree heat, because “girls with women’s bodies” can’t wear things like sleeveless tops and overalls — these were things my school friends wore with no issue.

The dress code violation is that of showing someone’s back and shoulders…

Two cheerleaders at the Glenbard East High School Homecoming dance 2000 in formalwear and cowboy hats.
This was my bestie and I at the Fall 2000 Glenbard East homecoming dance. I wonder how the school plans to enforce a no-shoulders allowed dress code for that school-sanctioned event this fall.

It’s hard for me to stomach that things have not only not improved at this school, THEY’VE GOTTEN WORSE. I was appalled to hear about the first day of school ambush from the mostly male administration and that the two females on the administration — according to the Glenbard East staff website — joined in the enforcement of this antiquated dress code.

In the last few days, I have cried thinking about the young women who were told that their carefully chosen first-day-of-school outfits were inappropriate because they would distract their male peers from learning. As if forcing girls to wear construction orange tee-shirts complete with the dress-code violation branding (Dean Rental) would eliminate distraction from the classroom. 

Way to go Glenbard East. I am ashamed to be an alumnus of any institution that would be so cruel to embarrass and publicly shame young women when navigating high school is hard enough. Adults, and especially educators, have a responsibility to inspire and guide young people. They should provide a safe haven from all of the other things that teenagers have to endure. You have so much power, but with great power comes great responsibility. Now, what are you going to do to remedy the situation?

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8 Responses

  1. Unbelievable – I remember in the late 1960’s having to kneel on the floor in the hallway to see if my dress was too short (before the days that girls were allowed to wear pants/shorts).. It’s like people are trying to drag women back into the obedience of the pre-suffrage era. The era of when a female was raped it was her fault. And every woman was “asking for it”. Makes me sick.

  2. Sad indeed – welcome to the Burka mentality — And what is the message to boys? “You have no self control and can’t pay attention to the teacher if you see girl’s skin or can tell the size of their tits?” In a way, rules like this actually teach sexual harassment as inevitable and normal. If the male can’t keep his mind on task and looses control, even to the point of rape, it is the female’s fault. That is the thinking and that is the lesson being taught.

    1. Yes, Bob. That is so unfortunate and true. They’re teaching young men and boys that women’s bodies are made for them and they have the right to ogle if a woman shows skin.

  3. Ugh. At least at my school, I think it was equal for everyone, so we weren’t body shamed. The thinner girls didn’t get away with it either. But the fact that we should have to cover up for someone else’s sake is insane. Women own their own bodies. And who decided a shoulder is so provocative?

    Coming to the US (and Illinois, as a matter of fact) as a foreign exchange student, several of the rules were baffling to me. I was informed of the dress code at the beginning of the year, and mostly followed it, but I got told off once. I only went back inside the school to collect some things from my locker (all the seniors had been outside gathering wood for a bonfire. It was homecoming week. And it was a hot day.) There weren’t even any people (boys!) around, but I still had to put on a sweatshirt in order to walk from my locker to the exit, basically.

    1. It’s just crazy that it’s 2019 and the rules are so blatantly antiquated and that the administration is not only going along with them, they’re also creating new rules to make life harder for students.

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