Is the school’s dress code a tool for student safety, or does it limit student identity? This question has been debated for years.
More recently, however, dress codes have been raised as an equity issue, following reports that black, female, and LGBTQ students across the country were disproportionately influenced by school dress codes. Some school districts impose harsh penalties on these groups of students, including in- or out-of-school suspension, for dress code violations. , concluded that there was a lack of model policies to help school districts set dress codes. Be fair to everyone.
Here are answers to frequently asked questions about dress code.
What is the school dress code?
A school dress code is a policy developed by a school district that is intended to regulate what students wear to school. We provide guidelines on what students can and cannot wear, including specific clothing, hairstyles, and accessories. Dress codes vary widely in what they restrict. Some schools require students to wear uniforms. However, in most cases, dress codes prohibit clothing that the school district deems revealing, distracting, controversial, or poses a safety threat to students.
Does school require a dress code?
A recent GAO report cited safety as the reason most dress codes have guidelines.
However, some researchers argue that enforcing a dress code often ends up punishing students for their clothing and hair rather than protecting them.
“In many cases, these codes are designed to keep students safe and engaged in learning, but they do more harm than good and do not contain all identities.” Assistant Courtney Mauldin said. Professor of Educational Leadership at Syracuse University.
However, things prohibited by dress codes, such as hate speech and hate symbols, can actually do the intended job of protecting students. Any symbol or wording should be prohibited by the school’s dress code, Mr Mauldin said.The dress code, like all other equity and school environment initiatives, is a way for all students to feel welcome. This is because the aim should be to make people feel that they are
“We have to be very strict and quick about what is not allowed or allowed,” said Mauldin. “But the same section of the handbook cannot criminalize or stigmatize people’s cultures and religious practices.”
When was the school dress code developed?
Schools have had dress restrictions for decades, some of which have been contested in court. In 1969, after the U.S. Supreme Court suspended a student for wearing a black armband to protest the Vietnam War, the Des Moines district was found to have violated the student’s First Amendment right to free speech. made a judgment. However, the High Court has never completely ruled on school dress codes.
According to Middle Tennessee State University’s Center for Free Speech, schools began broadly adopting modern dress codes and uniforms in the 1990s in response to “increased student discipline problems, particularly due to gang violence.” , gang-related symbols and items of clothing, clothing that obscures a student’s face and makes it difficult to identify intruders on campus, began to be banned.
But as student bodies in America have diversified, many districts’ dress codes still correspond to the dominant white culture, Mauldin said. This is evident from the ban on hairstyles associated with certain groups such as dreadlocks and dreadlocks.
A GAO report found that 59% of dress codes have rules about student hairstyles that disproportionately affect black students.
“Many of the origins of some of the policies, practices, and traditions that we have in schools are outdated,” Mauldin said. It comes from a time when it was designed with people in mind, and it was a very white-dominated culture.”
Is the school dress code sexist?
Additionally, as the GAO found, dress code enforcement is often discriminatory. Educators who enforce them often unfairly target students of color, LGBTQ students, and girls. .
This is because many school dress codes are gender-based, with over 90% banning clothing worn primarily by girls. For example, a dress code may prohibit boys from wearing long hair or specify that girls must wear skirts of a certain length.
“Of course, there are dress codes that differentiate based on the gender of the face,” said Linda Morris, a staff attorney for the Women’s Rights Project at the American Civil Liberties Union. I believe there are also other dress codes that have gendered language in them, which are clearly aimed at girls and cover hairstyles and clothing worn excessively by students of color .”
According to Morris, enforcing dress codes sometimes requires adults to touch children to measure skirt lengths and shoulder strap widths, which can be dangerous and degrading.
How can the district make the dress code more equitable?
The US Department of Education is developing model policies for schools.
To create a unique dress code that doesn’t reinforce gender or racial stereotypes, districts need to think about the message they send to students, Mauldin said. For example, the use of language such as provocative, explicit, etc., may be used to unfairly dress a girl by implying that she wears a particular outfit to attract sexual attention or provoke a strong response. will you target
“These words alone are a very problematic message for girls at school,” Mauldin said. “It’s also a problematic message for all students in school about what women should look like, how they should be represented, and how they should be represented in society.”
An impartial audit is also a good way to analyze the percentage of school discipline related to dress code violations and the groups of students most affected by it.
“We have to do something with that data, and we need to make it speak to change policy,” says Mauldin. “And we may need to change these policies. [impact] specific student groups. “
Students are often the driving force behind dress code changes in schools, Morris said. Schools need to listen to their students and think about the message they’re trying to convey through what’s prohibited and not included in the dress code, both experts said.
“We don’t want students to feel that something is wrong with their identity,” says Mauldin.