On Wednesday, Fountain Valley High School junior Kaeli Dinh was told to take off her choker and that she couldn’t apply black eyeshadow or black lipstick, moments before taking her senior picture. Her friends were told to take off their makeup as well.
“This took a lot of effort and it was really fun for us,” said Dinh. “I don’t know why they had to make it such a big deal to take off makeup. I don’t think we were offending anyone. It was just a little thing we put together.”
Several other juniors expressed their frustration with the sudden revisions in dress code policy. Students weren’t informed through email or announcements of any new regulations regarding their appearance.
Junior Matthew Bui wore dark eyeshadow and eyeliner with his friends. They were denied from taking a picture by a photographer and were sent to the activities office. According to Bui, the activities staff told them to take off their makeup.
“With regards to my appearance, I do not think that I broke dress code, my appearance did not radically change in any way. All I had was makeup on,” said Bui. “I was never informed that you weren’t allowed to wear or look how you wanted for photos due to the fact that many other seniors were able to take pictures in a style, similar to how I dressed, but on a larger scale than I have done.”
Another student, junior Yenni Giang, had a similar experience. She decided to match with her friends and wear dark makeup for a memorable spring portrait.
“A friend and I were wearing black lipstick and dark shadow and were waiting in line when a lady came up to us and asked us if we wore black lipstick every day. I replied with sometimes and she said that she couldn’t believe me unless I was wearing black lipstick in my previous ID photo, my sophomore one. Since I didn’t have my ID photo and I told her I didn’t, she sent us outside to go clean it off or take the photo during registration in the summer,” said Giang.
The school’s official dress code policy states that clothing not display messages related to “drugs, alcohol, weapons, foul language or sexual content.” Furthermore, it explicitly states not to wear items that are “rude, distasteful or denigrating towards any group of people based on ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, religion or other protected class.”
But neither heavy makeup, wacky hairstyles nor chokers are prohibited by the dress code.
“Pictures are an expression of self and freedom. So why do they need to put limitations?” said Emilee Mason, who was told to take off her Star Wars Princess Leia buns.
According to Don Langford, the photos taken for the freshmen and sophomores are used in the yearbook. The juniors’ pictures are not used for the yearbook because they take separate senior portraits. Yearbook has no regulation about makeup or accessories.
For juniors, these spring pictures are used only for their following year’s ID card or if they receive Seniors of the Month; they have their own senior portraits for the yearbook. Because they are the only ones who can see their own spring photos, juniors in the past have done unique makeup and wacky hairstyles for fun. This year, however, the regulations are stricter and we’ve witnessed many juniors being asked to take off their Leia buns or remove their makeup.
“Do you wear your hair like this on a regular basis?” “No.” “You gotta take it out.”
“The only instructions teachers received were for students to bring ID and order forms, and to follow dress code requirements,” said English teacher Sean Ziebarth. “Besides the dress code, we don’t tell kids what accessories to wear or what makeup to wear any day of the school year, so why are we doing it on picture day? As long as it doesn’t get in the way of identifying the student, it shouldn’t be a problem.”
When we asked the Cantrell Photography manager about the dress code policies, she referred us to the Assistant Principal of Activities Josh Lamar.
As of press time, Lamar has not responded but we will update the story as it develops.
–Aozora Ito and Celine Hoang