No shorts, no sleeves, no class: Inappropriate dress codes hinder learning

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If your high school was anything like mine, most of the dress code policies were directed at female students — skirts or shorts above a certain length (realistically, that meant no skirts and cargo shorts), jeans with holes above the knee, leggings and athletic shorts, shoulder-showing tanks or muscle shirts and lower-cut shirts or shirts of thin material were not allowed.

What dress code rules did boys have at my school? Basically, no caps. That was the only rule ever enforced. 

All too often, there were girls held in the principal’s office for “inappropriate clothing,” instead of being in the classroom where they belong. What’s even sadder is that principals and other adults would give the excuse that it is “distracting for male students.”

Schools are placing more importance on having a distraction-free learning environment for teenage boys over a female classmate’s right to an education.

Typically, these dress-code infractions weren’t even that bad. One time, a friend was wearing jeans, a non-revealing tank top and a cardigan to cover her shoulders — and still got called into the office. Most recently, there was a Facebook post about a kindergartner who was forced to change clothes for wearing a sundress that “she’s worn to church,” according to her enraged father.

In other countries this is not the case. In Macedonia and other European countries, if a girl wears shorts or a skirt that is too short, “Some of the teachers would tell them something, but they would not tell them, ‘Go home and change.’ But they would be like, ‘For next time, this is too much,’” freshman international student Stefanija Korun said.

In Texas, “when spring started coming, and summer started coming, that’s when the tank tops came out, that’s when the skirts came out because everyone’s trying to be cute. So before class, they’d say, ‘Hey, stand up,’ and teachers would check dress code,” sophomore Marija Tadic said about her years at Pflugerville High School. 

Certain states in the U.S. have “incredibly relaxed” views on dress code standards too, writing and rhetoric Professor Chris Gerben said. “My experience of my 10 or so years [in California] was that there was no explicit correlation between fashion and formality and authority, which is what I would assume would come into play at a high school.”

The frustrating issue with the dress code is that when students are pulled out of class for inappropriate clothing, their hard-working parents have to take time out of their work day to go home and bring a change of clothes to their child who may not be wearing anything inappropriate at all.

One could also conclude that U.S. dress code rules lead to certain stigmas and justify ideas of rape culture. If boys are taught in school that if a girl wearing a skirt is breaking the rules, then they could very easily think a college girl with a short skirt is “asking for it.”

Enforcing a dress code policy is not fair to students who are refrained from fashion freedom, female students who are caused to feel humiliated and removed from learning, and parents who have to leave their work to comply with schools’ sexist rules.

A student dress code is something college students are free from. You can wear what you want and not have to worry about a professor telling you to change clothes. Yet for most students, especially girls, this freedom was not an option prior to college.