Cleavage in the Yearbook: Where is the Line?

With the submission deadline approaching, Seniors are collecting the materials they need for yearbook, writing their farewells and getting senior photos done. For most students these things are a breeze; however, for Lillian Clark, a student at Spaulding High School who attended U-32 until tenth grade, it was not so easy.

She sent her picture to the yearbook, then received an email saying, “The photo is lovely. Before it can be accepted, we have to abide to school policy in regard to dress code and cleavage.” Lillian explained that she had other pictures that she could use but the one that she submitted was hers and her family’s favorite.

Spaulding High School’s dress code reads:

“In order to facilitate our core values, beliefs, and learning expectations, Spaulding believes that student’s attire should be respectful of themselves and others. While clothing and style are important forms of expression, the following guidelines are intended to maintain an effective learning environment:

Undergarments, midriffs, backs, buttocks, and cleavage must be covered.
Skirts and/or dresses must be fingertip length or longer, those that do not reach fingertip length must be worn with opaque garments underneath, e.g. leggings, tights, under armour, or shorts.
Faces and eyes must be visible at all times.

Accessories must not pose safety or health risks, or detract from the learning environment.
If students are in violation of the dress code, they will be given an opportunity to change, cover up, or modify their attire to be within the guidelines. Flagrant violations and/or repeat violations may result in administrative action.”

In a WCAX interview, John Pandolfo, Superintendent of the school, said, “In some cases, a decision has to be made. So where is that boundary between appropriate and inappropriate? And that decision is in the hands of the administration of the school. And then, most importantly, when that decision is made it’s then applied to all students.”
Lily Clark’s yearbook picture, rejected by Spaulding

Would U-32’s administration handle this situation differently? Will this story affect what can be put into our yearbook this year?

When asked about Clark’s yearbook photo, Pat Fair, U32’s yearbook advisor, said that she did not believe that it was too revealing. She has had situations but they weren’t dress related, “I’ve turned down some pictures, basically because they had a bottle of beer in them, or one boy had a rifle in their senior picture.”

Pat went on to say, “I think I did crop one girls picture. She was laying down in the grass and she did expose her cleavage, but I didn’t refuse it, I just cropped enough of it out so it was appropriate.”

She also stated that if she was unsure about whether a picture should be allowed or not that she would bring it to the school board or administration and ask for their opinion.

If they deemed the picture inappropriate then she would have to follow their rules and remove the picture, but Jody said they administration doesn’t have anything to do with what is in the yearbook, it is entirely Pat’s decision on whether or not it is appropriate.

When a few Senior girls were asked what they thought about cleavage in the yearbook they said, “I think if you are purposefully leaning down to show your cleavage then you probably shouldn’t be doing that. I think the line should be drawn the same for everyone whether they have big boobs or not big boobs”.
Another student remarked, “I feel like if you’re larger chested then it’s harder for girls to cover it up. But it’s different if they are doing it on purpose”.

In the yearbook we try to maintain our dress code, but our dress code at U-32 is not a strict as Spaulding’s. In our Student-Parent Handbook it says:

“Students at U-32 have the right to choose their own styles of dress and hair. However, school officials have the right to reasonably limit personal appearance and dress of students in order to maintain a safe and orderly educational environment. Clothing which constitutes a health hazard, is offensive or abusive to others, violated the Prevention of Harassment of Students Policy F20 or otherwise disrupts the educational environment is not acceptable at school. Students are responsible for dressing appropriately, items of clothing inappropriate for school include those which:

Promote the use of alcohol, tobacco, or illegal drugs

Depict in words or graphics messages that demean, harass, exploit, or ridicule other;

Contain profanity in words, graphics, obscene gestures, actions, or messages; and

Are excessively revealing. Such items include but are not limited to those which expose the chest, abdomen, navel, buttocks, or underwear.

Final determination of appropriate dress will be made by the administration and students may be asked to change.”

Whether a student’s clothing or yearbook photo is “excessively revealing” or “exposes the chest” aren’t easy to consistently judge. Old U-32 Yearbook photos show that the standard was not always clearly followed, as below:


Several students were asked about these pictures and they all shared the same opinion: “I really don’t think these are that bad”.

But what would administrator say today? And how much more revealing could a photo be before U-32 would deny it, as Spaulding did? There isn’t a final say on where the line will be drawn on the cleavage issue, but seniors will find out on November 19th.

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