Tottenville High School students.

Tottenville High School students.

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Students at a Staten Island [NY] high school where educators are cracking down on the dress code said they planned to protest this week and wear whatever they want.

As 1010 WINS’ Glenn Schuck reported, about 200 students have been sent to [the auditorium] over the dress code at Tottenville High School during the first two weeks of the school year. Hats, halter tops, sunglasses and hooded sweatshirts are among the items not permitted to be worn in school.

StatenIslandLive reported that more than 100 Tottenville High School students – 90 percent of them girls – were [angered] over the dress code crackdown that forced them to either cover up, or wait in the hot school auditorium until a parent arrived with appropriate attire.

According to students and angry parents, the school staff and administrators were pulling students from the hallways who they deemed were dressed inappropriately. Some of the girls were handed grey Tottenville athletic T-shirts or gym shorts to put on, before they could return to class. Others were forced to wait while a parent was called.

Tottenville HS junior Ashley S. wore a T-shirt that bared 2 inches of midriff on Sept. 5, the second day of school. She and 100 other stunned offenders were promptly hauled to the dean’s office and then the auditorium, while their parents were called to drop off appropriate clothing. If parents were working or unreachable, kids were required to change into school-logo gym shorts and a T-shirt. The next day, 100 more kids were similarly punished at the academically well-regarded, 4,000-student school.

“I was, like, flipping out, cursing mad, and I said, like, ‘You know I’m not gonna wear this!’ ” Ashley S. said of her gym clothes. “I took it off as soon as I walked out.”

The move is part of an overall enforcement of existing school rules and discipline code by acting interim principal Joseph Scarmato, whose daughter is also a Tottenville student.

On the first day of school, Scarmato sent home a six-page “contract” spelling out rules and regulations. The document had to be signed by the student as well as a parent or guardian and returned to the school.

In it, Scarmato explained that the regulations are necessary to prepare students for college and the workforce.

The dress code policy, named “Dress for Success,” reads: “All clothing and accessories must not be disruptive to teaching and learning.” Other prohibited items include hooded sweatshirts and sweatpants, leggings and “skinny jeans” as well as headbands, hats, bandanas and sunglasses.

Students said teachers all around the campus [are monitoring] what they’re wearing. “It makes this school feel like elementary school,” said one student who was told to remove his hoodie on a chilly morning last week. The NY Post reports that the school has 15 staffers enforcing the policy each morning, scanning for violations.

While there are parents who are objecting to the crackdown, there are many who agree with the school’s policy. One mother said some girls at the school have dressed too provocatively.  “The girls wear these little booty shorts…,” said one mother, 34. “They look like they’re training to work in strip clubs.”

The principal is trying to urge students to learn the proper way to dress to succeed in life, 1010WINS reported.

Schools Superintendent Aimee Horowitz said “Some schools have uniform requirements governing student dress. In schools that don’t, students have the right to determine their own dress, except where such dress creates a distraction, is dangerous or interferes with the learning and teaching process.”

CS Monitor reported: Others note that if the goal is to teach children how to dress for success, school administrators and parents are up against a pop culture that promotes a different standard.  Those messages from pop-culture ring much louder for teens than any implicit public code, says author and speaker Jean Kilbourne. “Girls these days are really pressured to dress in a very provocative way. All of their role models – celebrities and pop stars – dress that way. …” School enforced dress codes can help to alleviate some of the pressures that girls feel to dress seductively and can offer parents some guidelines to fall back on, Kilbourne said in an interview last year.

Student Jonathan Giardino noted, “The cheerleader outfit, it breaks the dress code. It’s too short and [breaks the rules].  If their parents let them out wearing it, there’s no reason the school should be telling them not to wear it,” Giardino said. “If they care that much then get us uniforms.”

(The article above is a compilation of articles from 1010WINS, ABCNews, SILive, NYPost and CS Monitor.)


1. Why is new principal Joseph Scarmato implementing the dress code?

2. What specifically does the dress code prohibit? Be specific.

3. How is the school enforcing the dress code rules?

4. a)  What is the name of Tottenville High School’s dress code?
b)  What is the purpose of the dress code?

5. How did the principal notify parents of the dress code BEFORE beginning implementation of the new rules?

6. What did the parents do that leads you to believe they know about the dress code?

7. Some reader comments responding to this news report noted that only about 5% of the 4,000 students at Tottenville High School were breaking the rules for the dress code policy; most were adhering to the required dress code. Some parents and students who did not adhere to the rules defended their clothing choices by saying the school was hot and not all rooms are air conditioned. Why isn’t this a good excuse?

8. Is there anything wrong with the school setting standards to teach students what is appropriate attire?
What types of jobs would allow employees to wear the items banned at Tottenville High School?


The crackdown on Tottenville High School students for dress code violations has sparked vigorous debate over the implementation and enforcement of uniform policies at public schools. But the dress code isn’t new.

Did you know?

  • All public high schools in New York City have a dress code based on regulations set forth by the Department of Education under the Chancellor’s Disciplinary Code.
  • The dress code at Tottenville High School in Staten Island has been in place for several years, going back to the administration of Principal John P. Tuminaro, who retired two years ago.
  • There are items in the dress code that are the same at every school, such as a ban on wearing hoods, hats, bandanas and do-rags in the building; shirts with offensive or violent messages, and belts and accessories with chains or spikes. These items were originally banned to discourage gang activity.
  • According to the Department of Education, it’s up to the principal of each school to determine how to enforce the ban.
  • Tottenville’s dress code is contained in a six-page “contract” sent home with students on Sept. 4, the first day of classes. It is also spelled out on pages 32-33 of the student handbook on the Tottenville website. Prohibited are tank tops, low-cut blouses, tubes/halter and midriff tops, short-shorts, mini-skirts  headbands, hats, bandanas, combs and hair picks, do-rags, sunglasses in the building, “visible undergarments”, hoods and hoodies, clothing with “inappropriate or offensive logos, images or wording”, as well as “clothing or accessories with metal spikes, or wallets with chains.” Earplugs, headphones, cell phones and “media electronic devices of any kind” are also prohibited. (from SILive website)

“Dressing for success” applies not only to the workplace, but also to school. Research has shown that the adoption of a dress code instills students with discipline, decreases violence, and helps youth resist peer pressure.

In accordance with NYC Department of Education policy, students do have the right to determine their own dress except where such dress is dangerous or interferes with the learning and teaching process. Inappropriate dress can cause unnecessary distractions in classrooms and, more importantly, convey unintended wrong messages that are misinterpreted by peers. Adolescents need clarification and reinforcement in matters of appropriateness, particularly in appropriate attire for school. Clothing that may be appropriate for non-school related social activities may not be proper school attire.

All students are expected to adhere to the dress code outlined below. THS is committed to creating an atmosphere focused on academic achievement and personal development… Head coverings of any type (except those dictated by religious observance) may not be worn in school.

General Regulations:  Clothing and accessories must not be disruptive to teaching and learning. The following list includes items that are prohibited, but not limited to:

  • No Hats, headbands, bandanas, hoods/hoodies, sunglasses or do-rags are to be worn within the school building.
  • No combs, hair picks.
  • No tank tops.
  • No low-cut blouses, tube/halter tops, midriff tops.
  • No short-shorts, mini-skirts.
  • All shorts/skirts must be at relaxed hand level.
  • No clothing/accessories with metal spikes, or wallets with chains.
  • No visible undergarments.
  • No clothing with inappropriate/offensive logos, images or wording.
  • No earplugs, headphones
  • No cellphones or media electronic devises of any kind.
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