ST. CLOUD -- Think back to a time when you were the king or queen of high school, did anyone ever tell you your skirt was just a little too short, that tube top wasn't appropriate for school or your favorite hat wasn't allowed.

It's no secret that school dress codes have been making national news headlines. Students -- especially young women -- are claiming their high school dress codes aren't fair and are sexist. This may be true in other areas of the country, but is it true here in the St. Cloud area? Are our area public high schools being fair or are the guidelines really sexist?

After talking with assistant principals from Sauk Rapids-Rice, Sartell-St. Stephen, St. Cloud Apollo and St. Cloud Tech High Schools and area students our discoveries may surprise you.

"I think the dress code mostly affects women," says 10th grade area student, Liam Zaczkowski.

Many students seem to think dress codes in general are geared toward women.

"You can see a guy that has his boxers showing and it's not a problem but a girl will have her midriff showing and it is an issue," says 12th grade area student Madeline Rasmussen.

As society's standards evolve schools are being forced to keep up, make changes and listen to those who are most affected, the students.

"What bothers me is when I see a guy wearing a shirt with a woman in a very sexually provocative position, very graphic, like it's a photograph and they don't get in trouble or asked to cover it up, " says Rasmussen.

Each of the three districts dress codes have slight differences.

Sauk Rapids-Rice enforces the fingertip rule for shorts, skirts and dress length (when arms are relaxed at a students side the length of their garment should pass their fingertips) but allows hats to be worn in the building.

Sartell-St. Stephen doesn't allow midriffs and allows shorter skirts, shorts and dresses as long as certain body parts are not shown.

Both St. Cloud district and Sartell-St.Stephen do not allow hats during the school day.

Sauk Rapids-Rice does make it a priority to consult a student cabinet while reviewing the dress code policy every year.

SRRHS Assistant Principal Tanya Peterson says "they [students] just really talked about comfort and about being able to be at school and around others comfortably without distraction."

The word distraction comes up a lot while talking about dress codes and students have their own take on the word.

"People say it [how girls dress] distracts the boys from learning and that's like telling the girls that the boys learning is more important than their own," says 12th grade area student Amy Steffen.

The tricky part about all three of these dress codes is ultimately any piece of clothing can be considered unacceptable by school staff, this makes it more difficult for students to judge what is and isn't acceptable.

12th grade area student Joe Becker says the rules can be confusing and one of his close friends found out the hard way that her outfit was not approved.

Becker says his friend wore a pair of shorts to school, she knew they were too short so she wore black leggings underneath, no skin was showing, no body parts were exposed but she was still sent home from school for the day.

Schools however are making changes, Assistant Principal of Sartell-St.Stephen High School, Brian Baloun says the social changes in society are shaping what schools view as acceptable clothing.

"I also would fall back on to what is appropriate in society right now, where longer shorts were the norm years and years ago shorter shorts are the norm right now." Baloun says "if a butt is showing, that's inappropriate and if we don't have that showing then typically that's going to be acceptable."

So schools are starting to ease-up on shorts. But there is another style that has made its way out back on to the scene -- crop tops and high-waisted bottoms.

Steffen says she knows a lot of girls who have gotten in trouble for wearing crop tops with high-waisted shorts and showing an inch or two of their stomachs.

From showing your midriff to wearing a hat, whenever a student is breaking the dress code school officials have quick and easy fixes designed to keep students at school and in class.

"It could be something so simple as turning a shirt inside out if it's inappropriate and if the student complies we don't have a further problem," says Baloun.

Assistant Principal Tina Lahr of St. Cloud Apollo High School says if you give a student a reason why what they are wearing is inappropriate they will better understand you. "What they are looking for is purpose, reasoning, practicality and an explanation with respect and dignity."

Even with all the confusion as to what is acceptable and what is not both students and schools agree progress is being made.

"I think they are doing a very good job of realizing that it's not so taboo to have a little bit more revealing clothing," says 10th grade area student Liam Zaczkowski.

"I would say they are getting better and I'm not really sure if it's due to people complaining about the dress codes or just because they're focusing on other things but I don't think it's nearly as bad as it used to be," says 12th grade area student Amy Steffen.

Schools agree with students, policies and guidelines are reviewed and changed frequently and in the end all schools want to do is to provide a safe and caring learning environment for all students.


Videographer Alex Svejkovsky contributed to this story.