The Truth Behind School Dress Codes

January 21, 2021

The Truth Behind School Dress Codes

Everyone talks about dress codes including students, teachers and perhaps even parents. Whether you love or hate them, dress codes have been a hot topic for recent years. But does anyone ask how students feel about them and how they came to be? 

Like many students, Susy Galindo, a senior at San Rafael high school (SRHS) has been affected by the dress code. Susy, like many others, disagrees with the dress code and finds it sexist. “If guys wore tank tops and shorts they would not get dress coded. I think the guys have more freedom.” Susy also brings up the race issue. She thinks that when it comes to faculty dress coding students they most likely target people of color. “I was wearing a cropped shirt but it wasn’t too cropped because my friend had a more revealing one on, yet I was the one to get dress coded.” After Susy had gotten dress coded, some self esteem issues started to come up. “ I felt upset after it happened because it made me feel like I didn’t look good or as if she was embarrassed for me because I was not skinny enough to be allowed to wear that and my friend was more fit and fit in more with the white girls.” 

Avi Fernandez, an academic counselor at SRHS, has shown her true feelings towards the dress code. When asked if she thought the dress code was important she responded “I think it is important to value and to make sure we model what is appropriate and what is not. I think it is okay for students to express themselves and be creative.” Mrs. Fernandez expressed that working with high school students the ages of 14-18 are going to want to explore and express themselves and they need to be able to do so. Mrs. Fernandez thinks that the school board needs to include the voices of the students when it comes to making dress code decisions. “It has to do with who is making the decisions like is it white males? Who’s voices are being heard or need to be heard? How does race play a part in this?” When it comes to disciplining students for violating the dress codes, Mrs.Fernandez doesn’t believe that detention doesn’t do anything and that the problem needs to be addressed.  In fact, she also believes that POC students at SRHS get targeted more than others. “In my experience working at SRHS I have noticed POC students get in trouble more for dress code violations as well as other things.”

An SRHS senior who wished to stay anonymous stated that “If you pay attention to it most of the things that you can’t wear are towards girls. Like with short skirts or shorts they can’t be a certain length because it may show skin and yet if boys wear short shorts nothing is done to them. Or with tank tops if a guy is seen with one it is ‘fine’ because they are in the gym but if a girl is seen in one it will be provoking to the boys.” She also expressed that the dress code targets mainly Latina students more because she’s personally seen white girls wear the same thing and didn’t get dress coded. She believes it can also target taller girls as well because teachers can think they are wearing something too short but it is because they have longer legs. 

Mrs. Levy, a teacher at SRHS, believes that the school dress code is not really enforced. When Mrs. Levy was asked if she thought dress codes were important she responded, “I think there are certain things to be careful of, but students should have the freedom to express themselves.” Mrs. Levy also believes that if there are students who violate the dress code, they need to talk about it and address the issue. Also, from her experience as a teacher at SRHS she has never seen an instance where the dress code has been unfair or unequal to students. 

Stephanie, another SRHS student, expressed, “I don’t think my shoulder, bra strap, belly button, legs or back are going to distract any male students or faculty. The dress code is telling girls to cover up because ‘boys will be boys.’ It gets hot. Girls are going to wear shorts and tank tops.” She also went on and said that by discipling girls and telling them to go to the office is letting them know that their education does not matter and that a male’s education is more important. She also stated that, “When girls get dress coded it makes them feel like a ‘slut’ and girls usually hear this almost every day, we do not need to hear the staff making us feel like these names are true.” 

In my experience, I have never been dress coded. But, I have seen instances where the dress code has been unequal and unfair to various students at SRHS. For example, way more girls get dress coded than boys do, and the dress code at SRHS applies more to the female students rather than male students. I have also noticed that usually when girls get dress coded, they are mainly Latina students. 

The first school dress code law was established in 1969 by the U.S Supreme Court. The case known as Tinker vs. Des Moines Independent School District, involved several high school students who wore black armbands to school in a planned protest against the Vietnam war. In Tinker vs. Des Moines, the Supreme Court ruled that public school officials can’t censor student expression unless there is a reason it could potentially disrupt school activities or invade the rights of others. Dress codes are typically implemented in schools to promote learning, safety and image. School dress codes exclude types of clothing such as provocative attire and usually gang colors.

In December 2019, Barbers Hill Independent school district in Mont Belvieu, Texas, decided to enforce a dress code policy that included sections on clothing, head coverings and hair: “Male students’ hair will not extend, at any time, below the eyebrows or below the ear lobes. Male students’ hair must not extend below the top of a t-shirt collar or be gathered or worn in a style that would allow the hair to extend below the top of the t-shirt collar, below the eyebrows or below the ear lobes when let down” DeAndre Arnold has attended Barbers Hill Independent school district his entire life and in high school he grew his hair into locs. However, before winter break the principal of Barbers Hill high school placed Deandre in-school suspension and told him he wouldn’t be able to attend his classes, prom and even his own graduation, because his dreadlocks violated the school dress code. 

The school dress code at SRHS is not in any way like the dress code at Barbers Hill Independent school district. At SRHS, the dress code doesn’t allow saggy pants, and wearing clothing with inappropriate symbols or words, no bandanas or anything gang related, no crop tops, no shirts with spaghetti straps, no short skirts or short shorts, and no jeans that have too many rips in them. 

As of recently, Texas high school student Trevor Wilkinson has been suspended for wearing painted nails to online school. Clyde high school has a district school dress code that “only lets girls wear makeup and nail polish.”. Wilkinson has received a 3 day suspension for refusing to remove his nail polish. Since then, a lot has happened- to say the least, he decided to go in front of the school board with a message. Despite the speech, the superintendent said that the school dress code won’t be changed. Trevor has not given up though, he created a petition so schools can allow boys to wear nail polish. 

Mrs. Deamer, a teacher at SRHS, has expressed how she has a dress code policy for her drama class online. Mrs.Deamer indicated that online school is difficult, but believes that it is extremely difficult to teach drama online when students are not cooperating. Mrs.Deamer believes that online school and the pandemic have been hard to deal with and wants all her students to be comfortable, but she also wants to make sure her students are participating. At SRHS, like many other schools, there is a no hat policy. Mrs. Deamer agrees with this policy because as a drama teacher she wants all her students to be comfortable but in her experience she has witnessed some students trying to hide their faces with a hat. Mrs. Deamer also mentioned that the dress code is not consistent. “The thing is cheerleaders wear short outfits, so if they can wear short outfits why don’t the rules apply to other girls.”

In a poll by TODAY it showed how 78% of people think that there needs to be standards for school attire for teens and children. Another 22% said that children and teens should be able to dress how they want.

Overall, it’s clear that people think that sometimes school dress codes are necessary but people aren’t clear on why they exist in the first place. But one thing is clear: if they exist, they need to be clear, fair and consistent. 

View Comments (4)

Off the Leash • Copyright 2024 • FLEX WordPress Theme by SNOLog in

Comments (4)

All Off the Leash Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  • M

    MaliaNov 12, 2022 at 10:12 am

    This is what happens at my school and it’s a Elementary school you cant where jeans or leggings fyi it’s a pub school

  • J

    Joan DeamerJan 24, 2021 at 10:30 am

    I do not have a dress code for online drama, but I do encourage students to remove hats when presenting unless it’s part of a costume. Because of the pandemic, I have allowed students to continue to wear hats in order for them to feel more comfortable. In person class is different.

    • K

      KenJul 30, 2022 at 7:51 am

      What’s wrong with wearing hats?

      • H

        hiiSep 29, 2023 at 10:27 am

        I swear if a guy was was wearing just pants teachers wouldn’t say anything but if a girl was wearing something under “finger length” they would be annihilated