Schools have Used School Dress Codes

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Hook. Schools have used school dress codes to promote a better learning environment since the 1960s. Recently, the policies in place have become a hot topic for teachers, students, and parents alike. A multitude of students in each grade have been affected; although, young girls are the biggest target of these dress codes. With the rise of feminism and many other social movements, dress code policies have become a large topic of discussion and many people want to make them less strict or just toss the rules completely. School administrators should not enforce dress codes because they target and sexualize young women, take away constitutional rights, and prevents students from being able to learn.

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First of all, school dress codes target and sexualize young women. With dress codes emplaced at such young ages, girls start believing that there is something wrong with their bodies when they have not even reached puberty. Installments of dress codes at elementary ages mostly are not centered towards the boys, which in turn sexualizes school age girls. Most girls at these young ages believe that dress codes exist for the sole reason of implementing discipline.

For example, many middle/elementary school students are also being affected when they don’t even fully understand why. In many schools across the United States, many middle schoolers are sent home because their shirt is not covering their leggings like they should, or because their shorts are half an inch shorter than the length of their arms. In an article written by Kira Barrett, a parent explains this situation, ?Take a tall, skinny 12 year old girl”her shorts may not pass this finger length test and would be considered inappropriate for school, even though her butt is covered and the shorts are relatively long,’ she explains. Belsham also says that administration won’t enforce the rule with boys. ?Not one person in administration would even look at or question the length of a boy’s shorts.’

Also, dress codes target young women specifically. Many schools implement dress codes that only apply to girls. Some high schools even include gender in their policy, such as, girls cannot show off midriff or wear spaghetti straps. This singles out girls and forces them to believe that there is something wrong with their body. While many schools say that dress codes are in place to prepare students for their adult life, the underlying reason for these rules are to prevent distractions. This places the idea that men cannot control themselves, or get distracted, in a professional environment for the sole reason that a female is wearing something deemed inappropriate. Believing this assumption is not only harassing women, but also is offensive to men by implying that they cannot function properly being around a female (Barrett).
For example, many high schools only have dress codes for girls.

While a school might state that their dress code is inclusive, most of the rules pertain only to females. One specific high school under scrutiny is Marcus High School in Texas. They received major backlash after their dress code video went viral in August. The video starts with female students walking around the school wearing clothes that are deemed inappropriate for school, and then the girls are sent into a room for dress code violators, where a teacher tells them all to repeat the phrase, I will not wear athletic shorts. The school did come out and apologize after receiving backlash, saying the video was to show all of the students the expectations, although there were no boys in the video (Haller).

Also, by enforcing these dress codes, schools are punishing girls just for being a girl. Peggy Orenstein goes into detail, stating, Telling girls to ”cover up” just as puberty hits teaches them that their bodies are inappropriate, dangerous, violable, subject to constant scrutiny and judgment, including by the adults they trust. Nor does it help them understand the culture’s role in their wardrobe choices. Every morning, girls have to choose what to wear with the idea that too much of a collarbone is inappropriate, their legs aren’t professional, and showing shoulder is a taboo.

These ideas lead to body shaming, which in turn can become a larger issue for young women. Alexa Labadie explains this by discussing how catcalls from men paired with the discriminatory dress codes leads to the belief that her body was a distraction because it was hot outside and she did not want to have sweaty armpits. Sexist dress codes also place girls to blame when they are harassed by young men. This encourages rape culture because it blames the victim for dressing inappropriately.

Furthermore, dress codes take away constitutional rights. Recently, dress codes have been used against the students to discriminate against their race, gender, religion, or political beliefs. By keeping these sorts of policies in place, it gives a faculty member the ability to send a child to the office just because they disagree with the turban on their head or their bracelet supporting the Black Lives Matter movement. The first amendment in the Constitution is freedom of Speech, and with dress codes being used against the students, schools are taking away that right.

Often times, school will use dress codes to discriminate against specific groups of people. While different school may not force students to wear a uniform, there is still a standard way of dressing that the districts would deem appropriate. Most of the time, dress codes force students to dress and present themselves in a way that best represents, […] white, heterosexual, Christian, and male perspectives (School). An example of this is when there are rules against turbans or other forms of headwear, which would only apply to people of color. School also often use the term, distracting in their dress code policies, which can be fluid and open to anyone’s interpretation. For instance, if a transgender student who was born a male wore a skirt to school, they could be coded for being a distraction while a cisgender female student would not be reprimanded for wearing the same thing.

Not only do dress codes help promote racism, but they also take away the right to freedom of speech. A famous example of this is the Tinker V. Des Moines Independent Community School District trial. This specific trial questioned whether or not the First Amendment right to Freedom of Expression also applies to students at school. The ruling granted students the right to express their political opinions as long as they do not disturb the classroom. This case took place during the Vietnam War, and a group of students expressed their anti-war opinions by wearing black armbands to school in the weeks before their Christmas break. The students were sent home and suspended and due to this, they filed a lawsuit against their school district (Tinker). There are countless other examples of schools discriminating against one’s freedom to speak as they wish.

In addition, school dress codes prevent students from learning. All Americans have a right to education, and schools violate this rights by removing students from classes due to dress codes. For example, students will be taken out of the learning environment because of their distracting attire.

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Schools Have Used School Dress Codes. (2019, Nov 26). Retrieved December 3, 2022 , from

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