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Is this crew neck inappropriate? Students 'baffled' by school's dress code rules

Students at Dickson County High School are protesting their school's enforcement of its dress code policy.
/ Source: TODAY

The school year has barely begun, yet a dress code controversy is already making waves at a high school in Dickson, Tennessee.

Students at Dickson County High School have been speaking out about their school’s clothing policy, which requires students to wear “a collared and/or or crew neck top with sleeves.”

It’s not the dress code itself students are protesting, but the way it has apparently been enforced. Multiple students have been disciplined in recent weeks for wearing crew neck tops they thought adhered to school rules.

Tori Taylor, 17, was told she had to change before she could return to class because her shirt, pictured below, was deemed inappropriate.

“I was honestly baffled,” the high school senior told TODAY Style in an email. “I didn’t see what the issue could’ve been with it.”

Another senior, Bree Beard, was a chastised for wearing a crew neck top with elbow-length sleeves. She tweeted a photo of the shirt with the caption, “please tell me what’s wrong with this?????”

When Beard, 17, asked school officials why her shirt was against the rules, “they said it was out of dress code because my bra straps were showing,” she told TODAY Style in an email. “I asked if I could fix my bra to where they couldn't see my straps but they said it was still out of dress code because it was the wrong type of crew neck.”

“I was confused and a little upset because I bought that shirt and more like it the day before,” she continued, “and if I couldn't wear that, then none of my other shirts would work. Also, I wore the same type of shirts last year and never got in trouble for them.”

Some other students and parents have also protested the school’s strict dress code on social media.

“Congratulations to the students of DCHS for fighting for their rights!!!” one mom wrote on the school’s Facebook page. “The dress code is the stupidest thing here...I understand a dress code should be implemented (no pajamas, daisy dukes, or low cut crop tops)...But if you're sent to suspension because your jeans are fraying at the bottom, you're wearing a v-neck or blouse, that's when I'm ready to have a fit.”

Joey Holley, the principal of DCHS, said he could not comment on disciplinary matters concerning individual students. However, he shared a statement the school sent out earlier to families.

“Dickson County High School is proud to build good relationships with students, parents, and our community,” the statement reads. “We have a great school and we strive every day to keep it that way. The purpose of our dress code is to assure students will dress and groom in a clean, neat, and modest manner in order not to distract or interfere with the educational environment of the school. For the most part, 99 percent of our students have come to school within our dress code guidelines. As a reminder, we have communicated with students, parents, and community our dress code expectations for this school year.”

Holley also shared a list of measures the school had taken to educate families about the clothing rules, including sharing the details of the dress policy on social media and in multiple announcements to students during the first week of classes.

Still, Taylor does not understand why her white, crew neck shirt wasn’t allowed under the school’s stated dress guidelines. And her mom, Michelle Barrett, said that she, too, is frustrated by what she calls the school’s inconsistent enforcement of clothing rules.

“We have no problem following a dress code,” Barrett told TODAY Style in an email. “We understand that dress code is a part of life, whether that be in work or school. Our issue was that a dress code was posted on the school's website along with pictures of appropriate clothing, and this is what we based our choices of clothing on while doing our back-to-school shopping.”

The confusion surrounding the dress code presents a hardship for her family, Barrett added.

“I am not in the financial situation to be able to purchase a new wardrobe because they said something was appropriate, which actually is not,” she said.

Barrett emphasized that when it comes to the dress code, she and her daughter do want to follow the rules.

“We didn't try to ‘get by’ with something that we knew was not considered appropriate, yet she still faced a violation,” she said. “We just needed them to be clear with ... their expectations.”