School dress codes in Washington, D.C., are in the spotlight after a recent report from the National Women's Law Center found they disproportionately affect black girls, District Administration reports.
The report details signs of progress since an initial evaluation last year, including legislation to end out-of-school suspensions for dress code infractions and plans for a parent-led dress code taskforce, but in a statement, lead researcher Nia Evans said “schools continue to discriminate against black girls by banning forms of expression that pose no threat, and reinforce rape culture.”
Dress codes across the country tend to have more rules for female students than male students, though some school districts are relaxing dress codes altogether to focus more time on other issues.
In the wake of research such as this and previous reports by the NWLC, which points to policies that can lead to discrimination and body shaming, some schools are reevaluating long-held policies around just how much students are allowed to express themselves in the form of clothing.
As Education Dive reported last year, many schools have turned to a model dress code put out by the Oregon Chapter of the National Organization of Women, which includes gender-neutral language and guidelines.
Others have skirted the issue by implementing uniforms, which are rising in popularity but also come with their own fair share of controversy — namely for being too much of a burden on low-income families who cannot afford them. On the other hand, uniforms have been known to cut down on bullying for students who can’t afford to keep up with the latest clothing trends.
Some workplaces have been known to institute a dress code for this reason, as well. If everyone is wearing similar clothing, managers are more likely to focus on employees’ skills rather than their clothes.
School dress code policies have traditionally been seen as a way to prepare students for the workforce, but with the modern workplace becoming more casual, school administrators may want to consider reevaluating their policies to match.