Goth teen wants the same rules for everyone

  • Julie Muhlstein / Herald Columnist
  • Monday, October 30, 2000 9:00pm
  • Local News

Black clothes head to toe, hair any hue but what nature intended, pale faces and tons of eyeliner, and jewelry with spikes — don’t forget spikes. For some teens, the stuff of Halloween is as everyday as other kids’ Gap khakis.

If the word "Gothic" brings to mind the ’60s soap opera "Dark Shadows," get with it. Today’s Gothic is a way to dress and a way to be.

The Goth look is off-putting. My kids aren’t into it. I have a boy who sometimes looks like a baggy-pants skater, but that’s as out there as Muhlstein kids get. I wouldn’t be thrilled to see them turn Goth. That makes me more narrow-minded than Lora Troncoso.

"Would I rather she dressed normal? No," Troncoso said of her 16-year-old daughter, Clarissa. "Kids change, styles change, love remains the same. Gothic or not, she’s a funny, brave, kind person and a good friend. There’s so much more to worry about than this."

Last week, Clarissa was suspended from Everett High School for a day because she wore a spike-studded necklace. The girl was told if she returned in spikes, she’d face a longer suspension.

Troncoso is angered both by the jewelry ban and the school’s lack of a written policy outlining it. When she contacted the school, Troncoso was told spikes posed a safety hazard.

"If there are going to be issues with this, I want to see a policy in writing," Troncoso said.

"They pulled my kid in and another girl who wore eyeliner down the corner of her eye and down her face. They told her she couldn’t wear it like that. These are the kids considered to be Gothic," she said.

Pat Sullivan, principal of Everett High, said the school has had "interactions over this particular piece of adornment" for five years. The spike issue originally came up in P.E. class.

"We feel it could reasonably be perceived to be a weapon," he said. "We do not try to be intrusive to what students want to wear, but sometimes we have to, as schools have always done. There are some things we don’t allow for very specific reasons."

Troncoso and her daughter don’t buy those reasons. They feel Goths are picked on while others wear chains or other heavy jewelry, which could also be weapons.

For Clarissa, the Gothic look is self-expression. "We’re not evil people at all. I don’t think it’s right that cheerleaders can paint their faces to show school spirit, but my friend had tiny whiskers coming out of her eyes and they told her to take it off.

"It’s not like I walk around and bark," the 10th-grader said.

"I know they’re trying to make this a Gothic issue," Sullivan said. About the makeup ban, he said, "we’re responding to a type of makeup that in excess we view as being intimidating or threatening. Oftentimes it is black, turning to red, coming out of the corner of eyes, nostrils or the corners of mouths.

"It’s meant to be ghoulish or intimidating," the principal said.

Why not a written rule? With kids in Catholic schools, I’m used to rules on everything, nail polish to socks. If a rule is in place, there’s less room for individuals to feel singled out.

"We’ve gotten away from having specific things listed in our dress code," Sullivan said. A select list implies that everything else is allowed, something he said the school doesn’t want to do.

Posted at the Everett Mall entrance is a code of conduct you’ve probably never noticed. The 14th rule bans "the wearing of spikes on any part of the body."

"They’re dangerous for people walking in the mall," said Linda Johannes, the mall’s general manager. "For us it’s a safety issue. We have lots of older people, and little ones in strollers. Imagine a child losing balance and hitting a spike."

Alderwood Mall has no such policy.

For an eyeful of Gothic gear, wander into Hot Topic at Everett Mall. Jessa Knutson, the store’s manager, can wear spikes in the shop, but not in the mall. To Knutson, the school ban is "totally stupid."

"At punk shows, in a mosh pit, you can get hurt by somebody’s jewelry. I’ve never heard of anybody walking into spikes," she said.

Knutson, who declined to give her age, is critical of dress codes aimed at certain groups. "It is attacking. They’re afraid of us," she said. "You have no idea how many kids come in here during school hours because they can’t handle the torment."

Troncoso’s daughter is handling it by passing a petition around school. It asks students to "say yes to freedom of dress."

At the very least, the mother of a Goth wants a rule that applies to everyone.

"If you have it in writing, we’ll abide by your rule," Troncoso said. "I’ve got a gorgeous kid who wears a dog collar. It’s not something I would wear, but I can’t make her change if they’re allowing every other kid but mine to be entitled to what they want to wear."

Fair enough.

Contact Julie Muhlstein via e-mail at

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