Dress Codes are Needed

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Dress codes are needed but not as they are now Dress codes in school environments is a highly controversial topic, some people approve of it some people despise it. Schools have differing opinions regarding dress codes, what is best for students, and as to why they implement dress codes. Some schools claim that the dress code is put in place to create a good learning environment that is free of distractions and disturbances, others say that the dress code was put in place to prepare students for the adult world where they will need to know when it is appropriate to wear certain articles of clothing. Whereas other schools claim it is in place to keep students safe, implying to some that it is in place to keep female students safe from sexual harassment. Having a dress code is completely legal if it does not hinder the student's constitutional rights.

This means that it cannot take away a student freedom of religion or speech. The law gives schools the right to make there own dress code if it is in the best interest of the student. The expectation for dress code it that it is to be obtained at every school event, this includes prom, graduation, after-school activities, school trips, etc. some feel dress codes are unclear. Many dress codes use language like “deemed”, “considered”, “determined appropriateness”, ”what may be seen as distracting.” Students, parents and teachers may all have a different perspective of what is and is not appropriate. Many people see this as confusing and hard to determine what exactly can and can not be worn. Schools dress codes fail to do the job in which it was designed for, therefore it should be modified in a way that will make it more effective and nondiscriminatory.

First of all current school dress codes fail to keep students safe from sexual harassment, this is very much focused on the female students, and in the court of law, a person attire is used as an excuse for the person being tried for the crime this is a concern that many parents and students worry about and want that to be changed. For example in the article “Why dress code cant stop sexual assault” written in the Washington Post states, “Studies show that women with passive personalities, who tend to dress in layers, long pants and sleeves and high necklines, are actually more likely to be raped. In one study, 1 in 3 college men said that they would force someone to have sex if they could get away with it, and that has nothing to do with clothing” (Kendell). Mikki Kendell, the author of the article, explains that clothing is not a cause of sexual harassment.

Many people have been taught by society that clothing causes harassment. Many people believe that people that dress provocatively are the cause of sexual harassment when it turns out that women that tend to wear more clothing that covers more of their body tend to be targeted more than those who dress provocatively. Some may do that to show dominance or control, that is regardless of clothing. Sexual assaults can happen to people of pretty much any age. There have been children under ten that have been sexually assaulted, teenage women, women in their twenties, and women of the age of thirty or older have a risk of being sexually assaulted. These girls and women are not necessarily dressing in a provocative manner, and the younger girls and older women are most likely to not be wearing arousing clothing. In addition to Kendell's statement, Elise Sol© writer of an article in the Huffington Post, Sol© claimed “Women’s wardrobes have long been used as an excuse for sex crimes, however, when you look at the data on why people rape, that doesn’t hold up,” she says. “One study showed that rapists stated clothing as the reason for their crimes but their victims were wearing a range of outfits from revealing to snowsuits. These are arguments to transfer the responsibility of control and power from the perpetrator to the victim…” (Sol©). Clothing choice is not causation for sexual harassment or rape because though it is used as an excuse many of the victims involved with these crimes were wearing clothing that covered anything thought to be “arousing” to an individual.

That does not line up with the accused’s claims that they were unable to control themselves due to the person's attire when that person happened to be wearing clothing that showed little skin. The people use that excuse because it is commonly thought that if that person is wearing provocative clothing or clothing that shows a considerable amount of skin then that person is ‘asking for it’. That is what they hope for the court to believe but when it was clear that the victim was actually wearing something very covered. However, some people believe that dress code should not be changed and that it works the way it is. In the article “Schools Would Benefit From a New Dress Code” in the New York Times newspaper, the author insisted, “Fifty years ago, all the girls wore middy blouses and skirts to school, and the boys wore pants (knickers were in style then) and white shirts and ties, except in September and June, when they were allowed to eschew the ties because of the heat. We didn't feel that our civil rights were being violated. Our parents saved lots of money on our clothes” (Mathabane). Mathabane is correct that this is has worked well in the past.

Though the time period that he was referring to happens to be the nineteen-forties, that was seventy-eight years ago, nearly eighty years from now. As the times change clothing styles change, those styles were common and easy to find in the day but in the modern day, it is increasingly difficult to find clothing similar to those. Considering how old this evidence is it is clear that it can no longer be considered relevant seeing as it is seventy-eight years in the past. Many staff members of schools when asked will say, “ dress code is there because one person can ruin it for everyone.” However, there has not been a reported case in which a student took That is a statement that is relying on suspicion. There are no or very few reported cases were their attire becomes such a distraction to them or to others. Schools that choose to do this teach students a valuable lesson, that being that a lesson of self-control.Various schools that remove or loosen their dress code policies report that it had positive results. Secondly dress codes many times have a tendency to be more strict on female students or students of racial minorities than they are on other students, dress codes many times have a double standard, for this reason, dress codes should be adjusted in order to resolve these problems.

To illustrate this, a report on school dress codes shows, "These rules aren't neutral: many target girls, and especially black girls, by regulating skirt length and headwraps," a report on school dress codes in the District of Columbia that was compiled by the National Women's Law Center states. "And the rules aren't applied equally, either. Students report that black girls, and especially curvier students, are disproportionately targeted" (Jones). Many schools that have dress codes primarily target female students more than male students. Many times girls are given more harsh punishments when it comes to being dress codes. When asked many students, of all genders, will agree that it is more common to see girls being dress coded than it is to see a boy be dress coded. Some may even notice that more “curvy” girls and girls of color are more likely to be dress coded, whether it is intentional or not.

Also in a New York Times article that was written by a recognized speaker on issues faced by girls, acknowledges, “Girls, particularly those with ample hips or breasts, are almost exclusively singled out, typically told their outfits will “distract boys.” As if young men cannot control themselves in the presence of a spaghetti strap” (Orenstein). Most guys, when asked, will say that they do not care about how their female classmates dress. Usually, the students that are dress coded are female students with larger hips and breasts, these students may also happen to be a part of a racial minority.

Weather dress coding students of racial minorities more often is done intentionally or not, it does happen in many schools. It actually makes it harder for students to learn when they or a classmate is being dress coded in class. Lastly, the punishment for violating the dress code is counterproductive to the education to the child and their classmates and therefore needs change to make it effective and beneficial. For instance, in an article, an interview and study were done and the author acknowledged, “Nia Evans, the NWLC's manager of the campaign and digital strategies and education. "...and when you add discipline to it, it's really a disaster." The concern is that students who may already be struggling academically fall farther behind in class when they miss too much time serving suspensions, changing clothes, or waiting while administrators measure their skirt lengths” (Jones). Schools use suspension as a punishment for dress code offenses. Usually, if the punishment does reach suspension it is usually an in-school suspension. However, it is not uncommon to hear of students being sent home or be given out of school suspension.

This causes a problem because a student is being stripped of their education, even if only a day, and losing in-class time for a relatively small offense. It may not seem like a big deal but for students who are already struggling it is, that loss of class time and instruction could mean their passing or failing. Equally important, in an article by CNN News the author states, “One 15-year-old girl, who we're not naming to protect her privacy, said she was given an in-school suspension for wearing shorts that were to her mid-thigh. Her teacher suggested that her clothing was suggestive and that she was "asking for it” (Wallace).

A student was given in-school suspension because of a dress code infraction because of that, she lost one or more days of in-class instruction and learning. This is one of the biggest reasons parents and students get upset. Making that worse is that many times the punishment is harsher on girls. Boys who get “dress-coded” or are warned about their clothing, usual shirts, are given a simple warning and let go without having to leave class or if there was something deemed inappropriate on his shirt they will just be asked to turn the shirt inside-out. If that were the case for a girl they will usually have to go to the office and get a shirt from there, usually a baggy and uncomfortable school shirt. Not only does being dress coded effect that person education but it also affects their classmates, students will be more distracted seeing their classmate being sent the the office or principles for dress code than they would be if no one brought it up at all. School dress code should be changed rather than discarding completely.

As of now many dress codes have problems that can and should be solved to make it more effective and just. Some of these problems that numerous people are concerned about are its negative effects on the education of students, not only the student dress coded but the students around them; the belief that dress code keeps students safe from sexual harassment but more often than not it does not; and the thing that many people are most upset about, that it is, in many cases, unfair to women. Not all dress codes are sexist towards women but many are and those dress codes are the ones that need to be changed. Many people believe that the way a person dress is the cause of sexual harassment if she wears something that shows ample amount of skin then that means she is “asking for it”, but the way a person dress does not correlate with sexual harassment as the majority of victims of sexual harassment were showing little skin at the time they were harassed. Dress codes could be made so much more effective and useful but as of now, they do not reach their full potential with some innovation it could.  

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Dress Codes Are Needed. (2020, Mar 10). Retrieved April 18, 2024 , from

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