Dress Codes in School 

Carly Woodfield, Staff Writer

Dress codes in school have been a point of controversy among students and continue to be an issue in schools across America. Schools can have a dress code from the very beginning of a child’s education to high school graduation. In recent years, some parents and students have advocated for better dress codes with fewer restrictions. In particular, dress codes are under fire for targeting girls and labeling them as “learning distractions.”

Dress codes spark controversy for a variety of reasons. Common contentious dress codes in schools include the following: shorts must not be shorter than fingertip length, no spaghetti strap tank tops or no tank tops at all, and no ripped jeans, no leggings, no profanity on clothing, hide bra straps, no politically affiliated clothing, no exposed midriff. Schools vary in what they feel is necessary to implement into a dress code to limit “learning distractions.” Further, it is being recognized that these dress code rules are targeting girls. For instance, if a dress code restricts students from wearing leggings in school and no midriffs, clearly that would not be an applicable restriction for boys, therefore only being a target to girls.  

At IHS there is a limited and lenient dress code that advises students to not wear clothes that “promote by printed word or symbol the use of illegal substances or other prohibited activities.” Therefore, students are able to express themselves with a less strict dress code. So, if the reason for implementing dress codes in schools is to limit distractions for other students and staff, one would think that IHS would be an environment full of “learning distractions,” since revealing clothing is not necessarily prohibited in its dress code. IHS freshman Emily Algate says, “I’m never distracted by what someones wearing in class.” This said, Algate believes what students wear is not a distraction because you can choose to control what distracts you. 

Another targeted group in the dress code, IHS junior Emily Burles mentions is “a fuller figure might get dress coded more because it could be seen as more skin showing.” Burles is unfortunately right. Often, when two people are wearing the same thing, such as a crop top, the person who is plus sized would be more likely to be dress coded because they can be viewed as more revealing. Different body types are discriminated against in dress codes, too. Sophomore Amber Mclntyre also recognizes this, saying, “The plus sized girls tend to get a little more attention because of how they’re trying to express themselves.” Another example of how different body types can be a target is if  a girl has more of a chest, they are more likely to be dress coded than another girl with less of a chest. 

Girls receiving more attention in dress codes happens for many reasons. A big reason for dress codes targeting girls more than boys is because girls are told they are drawing their male classmates’ attention. It is wrong that sexualization has been brought into the school environment while the focus should be on learning and one’s education, not a student’s body. Senior Nick Benis says, “Focus on eliminating distractions like profanity on a shirt is something important, but the focus should be taken off people’s bodies.” It is clear that schools need to re-evaluate dress codes and to re-focus on education, rather than worrying about students being potentially distracted by one’s clothing. Burles’ input on what she believes is important in school is to “think about the effect it may cause on someone and their comfort.” If students are comfortable with their clothing choice that should be all that matters. 

Outrageous dress code restrictions have even made headline news, as people are becoming more aware of the impact dress codes have on students and even parents. For example, according to an article from the National Education Association, “In the past year, schools all over the country made national news for the ways they enforce their dress code—asking a student to put duct tape over the holes in her jeans, suspending a student for a skirt that was too short, or sending a student to the office for not wearing a bra—all of which take the focus off learning and place it on girls’ bodies.” It is concerning that dress code rules have made such an impact that the issues regarding them have come to the point of televising the instances of dress code repercussions. Dress code repercussions should not take time away from a student’s education to punish them for what they are wearing.

Many parents have joined in and begun advocating for children who are being affected by dress codes in school, realizing that dress codes are a way of sexualizing children. A mother of an elementary school is outraged by what her daughter has experienced with the dress code as only a young girl, “If my daughter can’t wear a tank top to her school because it is a distraction for boys, then I don’t want her attending that school. Is it so full of sexual predators that a boy need only glimpse my daughter’s shoulders to feel entitled to objectify and pursue her inappropriately? Yikes.” It is unfortunate that families have to worry about their elementary school age child being called inappropriate for what they are wearing. 

Overall, it is apparent that dress codes spike a lot of confusion and anger among students and families. It is important for students to feel comfortable in the school environment with what they wear. There is a certain line that should be drawn to depict what is appropriate and not appropriate in school, that is not discriminatory to anybody. By making more inclusive dress code rules and less strict ones, this will make the school environment more comfortable for everybody.