Ahhh… Spring is finally here! We celebrate the Vernal Equinox on March 20, and the warmer air and increased sunshine that comes with it. However, with the rising temperatures comes the “dress code season.” This is a three-part series on school dress codes. Part 1 introduces dress codes and explains why more schools are adopting them. Part 2 describes several of the problems associated with dress codes, and Part 3 identifies action-oriented dress code solutions to those problems.
Perhaps you’re not familiar with the term, but I’m quite sure you are very familiar with these signs that dress code season has arrived:
- A girl is sent to the school office because her shorts are too short.
- A girl is sent home from school because she isn’t wearing a bra.
- A girl is told to leave the senior prom because too much of her back is showing.
- A boy is reprimanded for wearing “braids” to school and told to get a haircut.
These types of incidents are so common that a new verb has been coined to describe them. Kids in these situations say they have been “dress-coded.”
Currently, almost half of all US schools have strict dress codes, up from 21% in 2000. Why this increase?
I think society is to blame for much of the increase in school dress codes. Our youth are copying the styles they see featured in media. However, they may not know how to take context and setting into account when deciding what to wear to school. While some clothing looks great on a music video, it might not work so well in the school setting. Also, clothing manufacturers are selling many clothes that make even young girls look like adult women dressed for seduction and encourage young boys look like gangsters.
On the other hand, adults perpetuate a culture in which our children are overly focused on appearance. For example, the objectification of women begins with babies and girls. Look at the clothing we put on babies and young girls: bikinis on babies and makeup on girls. If girls are taught that their worth is based on their appearance and the attention they can draw by dressing to please others, then we have no one to blame but ourselves when they dress that way. What is it about US society that we continue to frame girls and women as stereotyped sex objects and then penalize students for wearing attire that is deemed attractive by the standards society has set?
Bigger issues are at hand.
While there is nothing wrong with school dress codes, many problems result from dress codes that discriminate against some groups of students more than others. Other problems result when adults interpret dress codes based on their own issues. This occurs when dress codes are written using subjective language and the staff is not trained how to reinforce the dress code.
This is the first of a three-part series on school dress codes. My next blog post describes the common issues that arise from flawed school dress codes. The third blog post of the series outlines solutions.
Want to Learn More?
Read about dress codes and some of the challenges involved.
Sample dress codes:
Articles on Dress Codes:
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