A stud, an earring or a new rule that said neither?


Zach was asked at the start of the school year to remove the earring he got over the summer.

By Zach Rub, 11th Grade

While I thought the decision about whether I was going to get a stud or a ring was a problem, the real conflict ended up being the Shalhevet dress code policies. 

Last fall, I was informed by the administration that my ear piercing was not acceptable to wear in school. It was brought to my attention that under the male category in the dress code handbook, boys were prohibited from wearing piercings of any kind.

 I find this prohibition very problematic, because it restricts self-expression and freedom in which accessories specific genders can wear. Gender for some reason has been given a big role in deciding which accessories are permissible to wear in the Shalhevet school setting.

If this rule was implemented for halachic reasons, I’m genuinely curious what halacha comes into play. The Torah does express that Jews mustn’t mutilate their bodies. It is controversial whether earrings are considered a permanent obstruction to your body. Regardless, where does gender come into play? 

Within our dress code at Shalhevet, there are no complications for girls to wear piercings in school. If the reason behind this is because Jews, in general, can’t permanently alter their bodies, and if piercing your ears falls into this category, then why is this rule directed only towards boys? We also have to acknowledge that there is a rapid progression in the awareness of gender identity which in my opinion. should be respected by the school.

When I was “choosing” a high school I was given only one option, and it wasn’t Shalhevet. I came to Shalhevet High School in an unusual manner.

 I felt very uncomfortable and unsafe at the idea of going to other Jewish schools in Los Angeles. LGBTQ+ members are not supported at many of those schools and they are not places where people could feel safe about expressing themselves, or feel comfortable with their sexuality or gender. I immediately thought that the only school I would want to go to was Shalhevet, for its reputation of support around self-expression and its GSA (Gay-Straight Alliance).

 I applied to Shalhevet secretly towards the end of 8th grade, knowing that if I could go to that school, I could have a voice and make myself and others feel comfortable being themselves. I remember students from Shalhevet being members of the GSA and being allowed to dye their hair colors that suited their personas. When I came in in 9th grade, I ran to become a member of the GSA, and in 10th grade, I wrote Shalhevet’s first LGBTQ+ one-act play in the drama program.

As my time in this dream school went on, I and many other students noticed a significant shift in democracy and freedom for us. A recent example of us losing our voice would be the removal of the Hashkama (early) Minyan except for honors students without a vote or discussion from the faculty and administration. If there is any time to re-educate the Just Community that the students have a voice and a powerful one at Shalhevet, now is the time. 

In 11th grade, my goal is to educate the administration that as society is progressing towards larger acceptance of the LGBTQ+ community, so should the school, to include everyone in a space where they feel comfortable and can study and learn. 

Due to Shalhevet’s dress code policy prohibition for those who identify as male to wear piercings of any kind, I felt the need to receive opinions from other fellow students to gather a consensus on how they feel about it. I asked many students their opinion of this enforcement and they were all against it. 

What is the difference between a boy or a girl wearing an earring? How do faculty know how students individually identify — for instance, as transgender, non-binary, gender fluid, etc.? What if students feel uncomfortable sharing their gender identity? It is unfair and unreasonable to institute policies that divide small accessories by the gender of the students. 

Many other students whom I interviewed said that they also chose to attend Shalhevet to learn in a place where they could express themselves. For instance, one stated, “I am really confused as to why boys can’t get piercings. Like it’s just a form of expression like painting your nails or wearing any other kind of jewelry. Not gonna lie, it’s one of the reasons I came to Shali in the first place. Like being able to express myself and stuff.” 

To state the main intent of this article, I am personally offended by this ban, there is a logical reason why and in my opinion, this flaw should be fixed.