Off the Shoulder, Or Off the Yearbook?

Are senior portraits giving the cold shoulder to the dress code?


Ian Cowpar, Saxon Cross Photography

Photo senior Leandra Drouin was told would not be allowed into her yearbook due to the inappropriate nature of her off-the-shoulder top.

Courtesy of Kerry Nolan
Senior portrait of Savannah Nolan

In response to students’ concerns over what girls can wear in their senior yearbook photos, Principal Kathryn Dawe has agreed to meet with yearbook advisor Mrs. Toni Macdonald-Fein to review the school’s portrait policy. Together, they have formed a committee of yearbook staff members who will decide which portraits are acceptable.

“We will decide on a case-by-case basis,” Dawe said.

With a simple google search of the phrase “school dress code,” 464 million articles come up, including those from established news sources, such as CNN and The New York Times.

Of the five students interviewed by the Triton Voice, all agree that Triton’s dress codes are generally lenient and rarely enforced in comparison to other schools nationally, up until these past couple weeks.

“[Dawe] told me that my pictures negatively represented the Triton community and that I would need to retake them in order to be put in the yearbook,” said Triton senior Savannah Nolan. For her portraits, Nolan had worn an off-the-shoulder, white, flowy dress. Nolan was recently pulled from class and told her portrait would not be included in the yearbook because of her choice of dress.

“I bought two off-the-shoulder tops for my pictures. I had no idea they weren’t allowed. If I had known, I wouldn’t have done it.””

— Leandra Drouin

At least half a dozen other senior girls have also recently been told their portraits are too inappropriate for the yearbook, just weeks before the turn-in deadline of November 16. This is due to their choice of dress. So far, pictures that have been turned away have included off-the-shoulder tops, jeans, crop tops that expose the midriff, and (in one case) a hat (which was worn by a male).

“I paid for my pictures out of my own pocket,” stated senior Maddie Fecteau, before adding that hiring her photographer cost her $100.00. “If they try to make me retake them, I don’t know what I’ll do.”

Senior Leandra Drouin claimed to have paid $498 to have access to all the images taken at her photoshoot.

Some interviewees, including Fecteau and Drouin, cited past yearbooks, such as from the 2017-2018 school year, to provide an explanation as to why they assumed off-the-shoulder was okay. In last year’s yearbook, 19 girls wore off-the-shoulder tops, including both the valedictorian and the salutatiorian.

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This issue inspired an assortment of Triton senior girls, including three Triton Voice staff members, to attend a meeting with Dawe on November 13. At the meeting, the students and Dawe discussed why the policy had changed.

“There has been a change in administration and a change in the yearbook staff,” said Dawe in response to questions of the policy change. “And we sent an email out over the summer about how students should dress for their pictures.”

The Triton Voice was unable to uncover an email sent out over the summer. Senior Farrah Gabrian found one email from the school regarding the dress code in senior photos, but it was sent October 17th, just one month before the deadline.

The October 17th email does clearly mention the school dress code, stating “Attire is formal and shall conform to the Student Dress Code. For boys: collared shirts are recommended (no t-shirts), no jeans. For girls: respectable coverage, no jeans.”

“There is an expectation that school attire properly cover the body,” states the Triton Dress Code, before specifically mentioning regulations on clothing, prohibiting “backless or strapless tops, shorts or skirts shorter than fingertip length of that student’s extended arm, and other garments that reveal midriff, cleavage or undergarments.”

It is evident there was an effort to inform parents about student dress for senior pictures, however most seniors spoken to all claim they were poorly informed of the dress code, and its regards to this year’s yearbook.

“I’m pretty sure my mom doesn’t even understand how to use email. She never tells me when she gets them from the school,” said Drouin.

Nolan states she believes the regulations on senior portraits in the 2018-2019 yearbook describe underlying communication problems the administration has with its students, claiming, “Their justification for this is that we are disrupting others’ learning environment, or ‘mis-representing our community,’ when they are doing the same thing by pulling us out of class and telling us that we’re the problem. When in the first place they never established any boundaries which gives them no justification to do what they’re doing. So in the end, what is there for administration to gain by telling a girl that her shoulders are exposed? We are not the problem, they are, and their lack to understand their own students and their own policies they implemented.”