Opinion: Dear Administration, It’s Time To Get Serious About Enforcing The Uniform Policy

“With issues like a uniform policy, the administration’s stance cannot be in-between.”

As I get ready for the day ahead of me, I wear the same uniform-approved khaki skirt, white shirt, and green jacket every morning. I don’t even think about it until I arrive at school, when my motivation to follow Westridge’s uniform policy diminishes. It’s hard not to notice the numerous students who are in complete violation of the uniform policy, either by wearing sweatpants under their skirts or a jacket with a color unpermitted by the uniform policy. It’s frustrating. I’m someone who makes an effort to follow the rules, but I have to wonder If no one cares about enforcing the uniform policy, why should I care about following it?

In an email to upper school students in October regarding uniform violations, Mr. Gary Baldwin, Director of Upper School, wrote, “I’m reminding you all because uniform violations are getting out of hand – particularly bare midriffs, sweatpants, and pajama bottoms. It’s getting to be too much, and I would like to respectfully ask you all to do better.”

Mr. Baldwin’s email demonstrates that he, along with the rest of the administration, is aware of students not following the uniform policy. Yet, the problem is hardly fixed by one email. Action beyond “respectfully ask[ing]” needs to take place. Aside from emails, little action is being carried out by the administration. 

The enforcement of Westridge’s uniform policy has always been lenient, to say the least. However, after remote learning, the administration has become even more negligent with enforcing the uniform policy. Students are blatantly violating the uniform policy without consequences, and it is apparent that the administration is not fulfilling its responsibility to enforce the uniform policy. 

Your failure to enforce the policy only makes it doubly difficult for you to enforce anything–period. When you fail to uphold your own standards, you erode your own authority and undermine the values you claim to uphold.    

The Westridge 2021-2022 Handbook includes Westridge’s intentions behind having a uniform policy. On page 29 of the handbook, it reads, “The school uniform is designed to make girls feel comfortable while maintaining a respectful academic learning environment for all members of the school community.” 

Additionally, the purpose behind the uniform policy at Westridge, as Ms. Bonnie Pais Martinez, Upper School Dean of Student Life describes, is to advance equity: “I’ve been at Westridge for twenty-two years, and they’ve always had a uniform; it’s evolved. It’s given kids more freedom. I think the main reason why Westridge has the uniform is to equalize, to make it more conducive to studying and to equalize more for equality and equity.”

If the uniform is meant to support a “respectful academic learning environment” and student equity, then by default does the administration’s failure to uphold the uniform policy suggest a lack of support for both the academic learning and student equity? 

I’m not here to argue for or against a dress code policy. The fact is that Westridge does have a uniform policy, and if it’s going to have a policy, then it needs to commit to upholding it.  Every time I see students out of uniform, I resent it. It’s not fair to those students who are doing the right thing day in and day out. And it makes me wonder if the administration will be inconsistent in its enforcement of other areas.  

Students know full well that no one is enforcing the policy, or rather, there are no consequences for being out of dress code. For those of us who are in uniform, we resent not only those students out of uniform but ultimately the administration who allow them to break the rules with impunity. In other words, if the administration does not execute their responsibilities, neither will students. It is important to note that students who disregard the uniform policy are only partly to blame, as the administration has a duty to hold students accountable. 

Westridge should have a more stringent uniform policy that students are expected to follow fully or no uniform policy. Students, such as myself, are not responsible for ensuring that other students follow the uniform policy. The administration’s stance on a topic as principle as uniforms cannot be in-between. Students who are following the uniform are meeting their expectations. However, the administration must meet their expectations by strictly, consistently, and fairly enforcing the uniform policy.