No students safe from irrational school dress codes. Not even 4-year-olds.

This little boy could not start school in Texas because his long hair violated dress code. (AJC File.)

It’s early in the school year but there are already reports of overzealous enforcement of dress code policies.

School dress codes are arbitrary, and enforcement is spotty. What a 60-year-old male principal finds risqué may seem Sunday church wear to a 30-year-old assistant principal.

This dress got a local teen sent to the office.

I still don’t understand why schools pursue dress code violations to the point of yanking girls from class for displaying too much shoulder. Leave wardrobe decisions to parents.

In one local high school last year, a male administrator came to classes and asked girls to turn around so he could inspect them from behind. He flagged dresses as modest as this loose-fitting tunic in the photo.

Dress codes foster the dangerous notion that girls are responsible for what boys think and do. Almost all dress codes target girls, even outlawing their collar bones, as a Kentucky high school did.

This Kentucky student was sent home because this outfit exposed collarbone.

Dress codes also censor hair styles for reasons that defy reason. Why, for example, is long hair a distraction or danger on a boy and not a girl?

In Texas, a school barred a 4-year-old from kindergarten this week due to the length of his hair. The Barbers Hill Independent School District requires boys’ hair be above the eyes and ears and neck. Parent Jessica Oates is challenging the ruling, using the rationale her little boy’s long hair reflects the family’s Cocopah Indian heritage. (This is one of the first stories I have read  in which a dress code sent a boy home.)

Oates shouldn’t have to cite any reason. If her son’s hair is not impeding other students’ ability to learn or endangering them, why should it matter? There has been a rash of dress code citations against black girls for wearing dreadshead wraps or having natural hair. (Here is a good NPR story on one such case.) The reasoning in those cases is also incomprehensible.

In South Carolina, a principal of a high school set off a furor this week with a comment to female students about leggings: “I’m going to tell you now, unless you are a size zero or two and you wear something like that, you look fat.”

Stratford High School parents took to Facebook to criticize the comment. One mom recalled getting the same admonishment as a teen: “A long time ago, when I was in high school, we wanted to wear blue jeans to school and we were told that not everybody looked good in them, that they made us (girls) look fat.”

Closer to home, North Atlanta High School students are opposing their school’s dress code in a Change.org petition, also citing a war there on leggings.

More than a thousand people have signed the petition, in which a student explains:

It was the first eight days of school, and already hundreds of girls have been dress coded, including myself. And for what specifically? Leggings. Shoulders. Ripped Jeans.

Last year I could walk into school and around the halls with the exact same outfit on and no one would say a word to me. This year all you see in the hallway is girls getting dress coded. NAHS is setting unclear rules and, frankly, ridiculous ones.

Let’s make one thing clear: I do NOT wear leggings to show off my butt, I wear them to be COMFORTABLE in a stressful and sometimes uncomfortable environment. It is not my intention to be a “distraction.”

The handbook states, “All students shall dress appropriately so as not to disrupt or interfere with the educational program or the orderly operation at school.”

The girls’ clothes are not the part that is disrupting operations in school; it is the administrator pulling them over in the halls, or out of class.

When a girl gets dress coded, every other girl in the school hears out about it and that’s what creates the distraction. Reprimanding females for dress code gives the notion they are responsible for prioritizing boys’ focus in school. Our school system is so focused on boys’ education that they are willing to take females out of important classes and give them a disciplinary action for dress code. This disciplinary action (ISS) may be the same action given to those who start fights, skip, or bring drugs into school. The way the school system has set up these dress codes is disrespectful and unfair to females everywhere. Instead of shaming girls for their bodies and clothing, the school should be teaching boys that girls are not to be sexualized.

A change needs to happen with North Atlanta’s dress code. Girls need to be equally treated. If girls are getting dress coded for outfits that cover all their skin, than boys — who sag their pants or wear shorter shorts than girls — need to be dress coded too. If my mom doesn’t see anything wrong with my outfit, neither should the school. We, the girls of North Atlanta High School, want to be able to come to school in comfortable clothes and not be ridiculed.

Many of the students signing the petition shared their own experiences since returning to the APS high school earlier this month, including a young woman cited for leggings and a T-shirt.

I was told the other day by a teacher that what I was wearing was inappropriate. I politely asked her how and she responded by saying “Do you see me wearing that? Do you see me coming to school wearing that outfit? No. You don’t. We’re trying to get you ready for the real work world.”

You’re kidding me right? That’s some kind of sick joke. Just because you don’t wear it to your job doesn’t mean I can’t wear it to school. You and I have no correlation. I am simply here to learn and that is ALL. Not to get pulled over in the halls every day and be told what I am wearing is basically disgusting and flat-out unacceptable because it is NOT.

Here is the problem with the teacher’s statement: Boys in North Atlanta High are not being advised to don future bank manager attire. By the way, has anyone ever visited tech startup companies with their ping-pong tables, kombucha tea and meditation rooms? Hardly anyone in those places dresses up. (Hardly anyone is over 40, either.) They wear the same torn jeans, leggings and T-shirts they sported in college and high school. Their wardrobes don’t seem to be holding them back.

North Atlanta High parent Lisa Mason shared a letter she sent to school and district leaders, in which she pointed out the inherent sexism of dress codes:

The students at NAHS barely have enough time during class changes to get to their classes. Now female students are either being made late to class (or in some cases pulled out of class) to enforce these antiquated and biased policies.

Administrators should be picking their battles with these kids, and it surely shouldn’t be about how they look. How about starting with basic respect in the classroom? For their peers and teachers. How about some education on gender equality and sexual safety? Please take this matter seriously. You are sending the wrong message to all these kids, girls and boys.

Mason says the school has been easing up on violations, which is good news.

I asked APS about the dress code. In a statement tonight, the district said:  “After listening to concerns, North Atlanta administrators adjusted their enforcement of the policy to minimize disruptions and to honor students feedback around how the policy was being enforced. The administration is having ongoing conversations with students and parents about the rationale for certain aspects of the policy around which students expressed concerns. Administrators are optimistic they will find a path forward that ensures adherence to the expectations of appropriate dress while honoring the desire for individual expression and student voice. ”

Girls are entitled to the same freedom as boys to dress in comfortable clothing and to walk the hallways without worrying their bodies are under constant surveillance for possible violations. Girls are not distractions in school to be obscured; they are students.

 

 

 

Reader Comments 0

72 comments
vespajet
vespajet

It's been nearly 25 years since I graduated high school and some things never change, like issues with a school's dress code.  Long hair on males was not really a thing until the latter part of the 1960s and in time, it was not something that would warrant being sent home from school for unless it was a private school.   About the only hair style on a guy that would get them in trouble be something like long "punk" spikes which could be distracting.  Even back then, wild hair colors were looked at negatively, something that is commonplace these days.  


When I was in school, the length of shorts and skirts was the most common issue, but there would be other articles of clothing that would have brief times in the cross hairs of school officials. I remember when Spuds Mackenzie was popular and even those of us in middle school were wearing clothing with the character on them.  Depending upon the teacher or school official, one may have to remove the shirt (assuming they had another shirt to wear), cover up the Bud Light logo on it, or turn it inside out.  There was even controversy over some of the early Simpsons merchandise, especially the "Bart Simpson--Underachiever and Proud of It" t-shirt, which was banned in some school districts in the US.  


I also remember when the "Big Johnson" line of shirts was extremely popular and those shirts were quite risque (and not exactly suitable for wearing to school) and some students at my high school got in trouble for wearing them.  Then again, some of the heavy metal band t-shirts some of the kids at my school would wear would also get them into trouble as well. 

SomeonesDad2
SomeonesDad2

Are you as concerned about the 1st grader who was sent to the principal's office for incorrectly referring to a "transgender girl" as a boy?  Or does that punishment fit your loony ideology?


At the very least, stand up for the "transgender girl" who, by definition, is the target of terrible child abuse by her parents.

Gunluvr
Gunluvr

The only problem that I have with the long hair would be of a safety consideration with his hair getting snagged on the playground or some other similar situation. Mandatory dress codes don't work nor should they be implemented(IMO), especially in a public school or civilian setting. How many of you remember the Dr. Johnny Brown situation in Dekalb County a few years ago? He came in and decided that he knew what was best in forcing public school kids into wearing uniforms; His mandate didn't work and soon both he and it were shown the door by the school board; So the lesson is leave the public and their children alone when it comes to their sartorial choices while attending a public school, if your child goes to a private school then you will have to follow their rules.

Ben Bryant
Ben Bryant

The only problem that I have with the long hair would be of a safety consideration with his hair getting snagged on the playground or some other similar situation. Mandatory dress codes don't work nor should they be implemented(IMO), especially in a public school or civilian setting. How many of you remember the Dr. Johnny Brown situation in Dekalb County a few years ago? He came in and decided that he knew what was best in forcing public school kids into wearing uniforms; His mandate didn't work and soon both he and it were shown the door by the school board; So the lesson is leave the public and their children alone when it comes to their sartorial choices while attending a public school, if your child goes to a private school then you will have to follow their rules.

RexHavoc
RexHavoc

Liberal educators understand the "broken windows" approach used by NYPD to clean up that city.  If you address and enforce the rules that relate to the small things, the larger problems will self correct.  This is like making a child make their bed in the morning.  They will focus on what they should do the rest of the day.

Well done.

Shannon the Grouch
Shannon the Grouch

@RexHavoc You are not at all addressing the gendered nature of the enforcement, which is the heart of the problem.

palepadre
palepadre

Get the child a hat. Parents are the ones who choose what their children's appearance will be. They also should realize that it may lead to cruel comments.

ChessMaster
ChessMaster

I'm so surprised. I'm sixty and went to school without a dress code. If it was legal on the street, we could wear it. It was never an issue. Schools are for education. And yes, I'm from California. How about an article about dress codes and educational achievement in other parts of the country?

Beach Bound2020
Beach Bound2020

I believe that either schools have uniforms or (somewhat sarcastically) let students wear absolutely anything they want to school provided that the student and parent sign a waiver holding the school harmless from any teasing or off color comments a student might receive based on their outfit choice.  In other words, if a parent chooses to let a student go to school showing off breasts, buttock, crotches, even in a swim suit for all I care. fine, but don't take up valuable administrators time with handling the teasing and other comments likely to come from such a choice.  Parents and students want it both ways - wear what they want, but protect my precious child when other students actually make a comment about the choice.  That truly is one of the driving forces behind dress codes.  Honestly, most admins have no desire to address clothing choices but the irate parent who calls to complain about their student being made fun or stared at because of what they wear is such an annoyance.

Sacagawea
Sacagawea

When I went to school, we could not (boys or girls) wear tight clothing, revealing clothing, etc.  Dress codes are a necessary part of life, even on the job, because some people will wear stuff suitable for a sex show to work unless you tell them you're not in that kind of business.  Last time I looked, dress codes cut both ways, both male and female.  

worriedaboutthenumbers
worriedaboutthenumbers

@Sacagawea  Then you didn't look very closely, or speak to a teen girl.
 Dress code assemblies for boys take 10 minutes and for girls they take 45 minutes. Admins look the other way when boys show underwear or wear offensive shirts, but girls get pulled out of exams for wearing leggings with long shirts that don't quite go to finger length. This is not about what is suitable. Body shaming is real.

Surelyyoujest
Surelyyoujest

I can't believe I'm the only one who sees the irony in this statement in the article - "In Texas, a school barred a 4-year-old from kindergarten this week due to the length of his hair. The Barbers Hill Independent School District...." 

USMC2841
USMC2841

You give the administrators the authority to tell our kids they can't use butter knives and tell parents they can't have their kids at the parent's discretion (any other member of society would be charged with kidnapping) and then you wonder why the authority goes to their heads.

Paula Schwanenflugel
Paula Schwanenflugel

I send my college students to tutor in one school where kids are not allowed to wear "leggings" but are allowed to wear "jeggings". Don't know if anyone has been sent home yet for not understanding the difference.

Kathy
Kathy

It seems that schools should focus on educating students. And, allow parents to determine what they wear. Overreach and intrusive.

mike the man
mike the man

"Instead of shaming girls for their bodies and clothing, the school should be teaching boys that girls are not to be sexualized."


Good luck with that.  You have no earthly idea what it's like to be a 14 year-old boy.  


While we are at it, let's train all Dobermans, Pit Bulls and Rottweilers to be vegetarians.


I won't tell you what to wear if you don't tell me what to think about what you are wearing.  Deal?

worriedaboutthenumbers
worriedaboutthenumbers

@mike the man We don't need luck. Not teaching boys to sexualize girls is about their behavior, not their fleeting thoughts. Humans have managed to raise men not to be misogynists, rapists, or abusers, but it has to start in the home and be reinforced by the school. The "can't help it" excuse is so much nonsense.
Many boys also have the instinct to punch a mean teacher in the face, and we don't think that kind of behavior is ok, do we? We expect them to control their aggression.

And your offer is a deal - boys learn not to allow their instincts to influence their behavior, and a girl can wear leggings with a long shirt covering her rear.

Steven The Badger
Steven The Badger

OMG! I have no idea that, that was a little boy in the first photo. His hair needs to be trimmed.

KeeferDS
KeeferDS

@Steven The Badger Unless you are his parent you have no vote in how his hair styled.  Neither should anyone else. 

yet_another_display_name
yet_another_display_name

Does anyone know of any good scientific study one way or the other? Psychology has shown that the way we dress does effect the way we are treated, which could lead down a bad path for some kids,  but I'm not sure the arbitrary dress codes chosen by schools actually even helps that problem.  (studies showing effects of school uniforms would also be appreciated)

RambleOn84
RambleOn84

The writer of this article clearly has no respect for teachers and principals.


There has to be some sort of standard in what kids can or can't wear.  I'm sure everyone would agree that there must be a line SOMEwhere, but we would all probably disagree as to where that line is.


Maybe we should allow the principals to make these judgment calls.  That is at least partially why they were hired.


Focusing on the aspect of who breaks the dress code rules more often is just another divisive tactic intended to manufacture solidarity against authority.

worriedaboutthenumbers
worriedaboutthenumbers

@RambleOn84  This is not about 'no standards'. This is about arbitrary and meaningless standards. There are lots of examples that principals have terrible judgment, they are biased against girls and minorities. That's the problem. You wouldn't think it were ok if the principal singled out your child either.

RambleOn84
RambleOn84

No. I would make sure my kid is following the school dress code rules. Just because you don't like the rules doesn't mean you get to break them without consequences.

Shannon the Grouch
Shannon the Grouch

@RambleOn84 You make it sound like there are consistent, easy-to-follow rules.  There aren't, and "enforcement" is haphazard, gendered, and unjust.

RambleOn84
RambleOn84

Some people think everything they don't like is "unjust." You sound like one of them.

EightBurros
EightBurros

the government needs to stay out of it---let kids wear what they want---no big deal

theFall
theFall

@EightBurros Right. That would work out great. Both the boys and girls would be half naked.

KeeferDS
KeeferDS

@theFall @EightBurros No - it would be up to the parents to raise their children.  The way it always has been, and should be still.  We have to stop allowing schools to have more say-so about children than parents.  

whatisit
whatisit

i thought it was a little girl...cut the hair lady...

Kamau Mason
Kamau Mason

The problem with thinking that you know everything is that you eventually begin to believe it.

MaureenDowney
MaureenDowney moderator

More than 9 out of 10 dress code violations are girls. The young woman in this photo was brand new to her Florida high school and wore the black skirt on one of her first days. The skirt was acceptable at her old school in Seattle, but a teacher at her new school said the skirt was too short, and, thus, a "distraction." 

The teen had to go to the office to change into the school suit of shame, a yellow T-shirt and red sweatpants emblazoned with the words "Dress Code Violation." 

Which of these two outfits is more distracting?  

Plus, the young woman was pulled out of class and humiliated. Dress codes are arbitrary. A male administrator rounded up girls at my local high school last year and directed them to the office to be sent home. But several were told to go back to class by another administrator who thought their attire was fine. (And it was from the social media photos I saw.) There is also a lot of commentary on how a girl's size plays into who gets flagged. It's just a minefield for schools and a degrading experience for students.

Astropig
Astropig

@MaureenDowney


Let's see- summary justice,no appeal,no due process,arbitrary and inconsistent enforcement leading to injustice and embitterment-


Now you know how it feels to be subjected to the kind of process that you happily promote on college campuses for men.

PITTFAN
PITTFAN

Leggings should be banned altogether as far as I'm concerned.  There is nothing cute about them at all.


As for the 4 year old with long hair, I read the article published in the AJC earlier this week.  The mother's own words were he was not allowed to attend because of the black hair tie in his hair, not the length of his hair.  Which is it?  The hair or the hair tie?


But this also just goes to show you need to get everything in writing so there's not doubt about what was said.

MaureenDowney
MaureenDowney moderator

@PITTFAN He was sent home first for the length of his hair. That was Friday. And then, his mom sent him to school with his hair in the tie and that was still deemed a violation.

Here is what the local paper reported this week:


Jessica Oates, 25, of Baytown, and her son Jabez were told Friday afternoon by administrators at Barber's Hill kindergarten center that he could not return to school unless his long locks were chopped. 

On Monday, Oates put Jabez's hair in a bun using a black hair tie and tried to take him to school. The pair were turned away and not let out of the car because his hair still violated the school's dress code, Oates told Chron.comTuesday morning. 


http://www.chron.com/news/houston-texas/texas/article/Texas-boy-banned-from-school-because-of-long-hair-11949574.php

theFall
theFall

@MaureenDowney @PITTFAN don't you think that boy would be bullied mercilessly for the long hair, thus causing the "distraction" the administrators are always referring to?

LilburnLady
LilburnLady

As far as clothing being "distracting", that doesn't apply only to the boys in the classroom, but also teachers and other adults.  I have a niece who showed up at a family vacation trip with flesh colored leggings and a sweater that came down just to the tops of her hips.  Everything below the bottom of that sweater was on display in graphic detail.  She might as well have been naked from the waist down.  I'm a middle aged woman and I found it very distracting to see every outline of her genetalia whenever she walked by.  I can't imagine a teacher having to try to concentrate on the lesson when confronted with an outfit like that at school.


Of course in my day, the 70's, we went braless and wore skin tight jeans so we rebelled with clothes in our own way, but never, ever would we dress like that to go to school.  There was a time and a place for dressing the way we wanted to and it was usually on the weekends, with our friends, at a club, etc.  Going to school, work or church, had a "dress code" that we respected.  On our own time, we had our freedom.  Now kids demand it everywhere, all the time.

alt2AJC
alt2AJC

The parents of any adolescent girl would laugh at the contention that girls are no more likely than boys to want to catch the attention of the opposite sex.

MaureenDowney
MaureenDowney moderator

@alt2AJC Odd, girls are so preoccupied with wearing clothing to "catch the attention" of boys, yet they manage to lead in every academic area.


Across all grade levels and academic subjects, girls earn higher grades than boys. Not just in the United States, but across the globe, in countries as far afield as Norway and Hong Kong.

This finding is reflected in a recent study by psychology professors Daniel and Susan Voyer at the University of New Brunswick. The Voyers based their results on a meta-analysis of 369 studies involving the academic grades of over one million boys and girls from 30 different nations. The findings are unquestionably robust: Girls earn higher grades in every subject, including the science-related fields where boys are thought to surpass them.


https://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2014/09/why-girls-get-better-grades-than-boys-do/380318/

busy-bee
busy-bee

@MaureenDowney @alt2AJC  I would just add that most, if not not, all of the countries cited in that study have the students wearing uniforms.



otherview
otherview

@MaureenDowney @alt2AJC @MaureenDowney @alt2AJC  Seems to be terribly sexist to be pointing that disparity out. I doubt seriously you would have done the same with racial disparities. Perhaps you could have explained possible reasons for that disparity - inherent male inferiority, being preoccupied with girls who have caught their attention, etc.

Back to the issue, however, having had two boys and two girls, my personal observation was that the boys weren't particularly interested in their clothes and my girls were

Astropig
Astropig

@otherview @MaureenDowney @alt2AJC


Wow. Great observation. Maureen seems to be going to great lengths here to avoid admitting what reasonable observers know: Girls are just different from boys in their need for social acceptance,self esteem and a million other factors that differentiate the sexes.Her fervor on this subject is slowly tipping into obsessive.