With #dresscoded and #Imnotadistraction, school dress codes are coming under fire from students who say these policies can be sexist and racist. But many argue strict dress codes are necessary for a safe learning environment. So, how should schools decide on dress code policies?

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What are school dress codes?

School dress codes are policies that mandate how students should dress in school. They vary from school to school, district to district.

Are school dress codes sexist?

Many people feel that some school dress code policies unfairly target women since most of the items that are banned are items that women would wear, like certain types of skirts and tops. Many also argue that school dress codes can be unfairly enforced based on body type, where more developed women or heavier women are punished more frequently compared to less developed or thinner women. Critics say that this sends the wrong message to young women about their bodies and contributes to the sexualization of young women.

Are school dress codes racist?

Many people feel that some school dress code policies unfairly target people of color by banning things that may wear like durags, hair wraps, braids, and dreadlocks. Critics argue this criminalizes culture, and can lead to a system where students of color are getting disciplined more for dress code violations.

What are advantages of dress codes?

Many proponents of dress codes feel that dress codes contribute to a safe learning environment. Dress codes that prohibit gang related clothing or clothing that others may find offensive or distracting helps create an environment where students can focus on their education rather than distracting or dangerous clothes. Many also feel that strict dress codes help prepare students for work life after school, since many jobs require employees to dress a certain way.

SOURCES

Pudding: The sexualized Messages Dress Codes Are Sending to Students

Vox: Students are waging war on sexist and racist school dress codes — and they’re winning

Ed Week: Do School Dress Dodes Discriminate Against Girls?

Phi Delta Kappan: How dress codes criminalize males and sexualize females of color

NPR: When Black Hair Violates the Dress Code:

NBC News: Parents Outraged Over School’s ‘Discriminatory,’ ‘Racist’ Dress Code:

The Daily Beast: ‘Discriminatory’: ACLU, NAACP Go After Florida School That Banned Child for Dreadlocks

NBC News: Louisiana girl sent home from school over braided hair extensions

SF Chronicle: Alameda schools’ new dress code: Tube tops are in, shaming girls is out

An Introduction to AUSD’s Revised Dress Code:

School Dress Codes: When Do They Go Too Far? 29 April,2019Lauren Farrar

Author

Lauren Farrar

Lauren has a background in biology, education, and filmmaking. She has had the privilege to work on a diverse array of educational endeavors and is currently a producer for KQED Learning's YouTube series Above the Noise. Lauren's career has taken her to the deepest parts of the ocean to film deep sea hydrothermal vents for classroom webcasts, into the pool to film synchronized swimmers to teach about the pH scale, and on roller coasters to create a video about activation energy. And, she’s done it all for the sake of education. Lauren loves communicating science! Follow her on twitter @LFarrarAtWork

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