School dress codes raise eyebrows
- A Colorado girl was told she wasn’t allowed into class after she shaved her head in solidarity with a friend who lost her hair to cancer treatment. The story received widespread media attention after the 9-year-old’s mom posted the tale to Facebook.
The student has since been allowed to return to class; however, the story raises questions on strict uniform policies. The school board’s chairwoman had said the child violated the school’s dress code, which “was created to promote safety, uniformity and a non-distracting environment for students.”
- The story comes on the heels of an apparel-fracas at a middle school outside Chicago that banned leggings and yoga pants for girls. According to a 7th grader at the school, the girls were told the pants were “too distracting to boys.”
Although the scenarios are different, both raise concern over the “non-distracting” clause in many public school dress codes.
The case of the student in Colorado has garnered attention because the school's response to the shaved head feels extreme. There was zero-context when the admin doled out the in-school suspension, which highlights the confusion a zero-tolerance policy can create.
The case of the school leggings is currently being protested because families and students believe it is sexist and unfair. As one parent said, “For me it’s about shaming girls about their bodies. It’s the message across genders that girls have to cover up, and teachers saying to girls, the reason for this rule is so that boys aren’t distracted.”
This case also raises concerns about dress-code inconsistencies. According to parents at the Evanston middle school, girls getting disciplined for their attire were typically more developed; the inconsistent enforcement, based on body type, can cause embarrassment and shame.
Perhaps if the school has an issue with boys being distracted, the more effective approach, specifically for the long-term change, would be to speak with the boys about inappropriate attention.