Dress Codes: Are They Helping or Hurting Learning Environments?

Dress codes are causing controversy in american schools.

Photo+via+Kilito+Chan
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Dress Codes: Are They Helping or Hurting Learning Environments?

Photo via Kilito Chan

Photo via Kilito Chan

Photo via Kilito Chan

Photo via Kilito Chan

Tenley Wright, Staff Writer

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The fingertip policy. The hidden shoulders rule. Covered collarbones. These are just a few of the rules included in dress codes all across America.

In the past couple of years, multiple schools have made headlines for the ways they enforce their dress code. Some schools send students home, forcing them to miss classes. Others ask students to put tape over the rips in their jeans or shirts. No matter what the students are asked to do, it is clear that some schools are taking dress codes too far.

A dress code is a set of rules with regard to clothing. While dress codes are supposed to make the school a better learning environment for students, it frequently does the opposite.

Many school dress codes use gendered language, specifically calling out females. Administration from multiple schools claim that rules such as “Girls may not wear Spaghetti straps or show shoulders.” are set to keep the learning environment distraction free for male students. Rules like these are giving female students the idea that their comfort with the clothes they are wearing is less important than their male peers’ ability to control themselves when in the presence of a girl.

One notorious rule that has made the news a lot lately is the “fingertip policy”. The Millard West High School Student Handbook states that “Excessively short skirts and shorts are not permitted. Skirts and shorts should be fingertip length or longer when arms are fully extended at the sides.” While this seems like an easy rule to follow, parents and students are complaining that it’s nearly impossible to find clothes that comply with the rule. 

Another guideline students are required to follow is the hidden shoulders rule. The student handbook states that “Any shirt or blouse worn to school should completely cover the back, front, and stomach. The garment should also have sleeves that cover the shoulders on both sides. Straps must be 2 inches wide or wider.” Students have been dress coded for wearing off the shoulder tops, cold shoulder tops, and tank tops. During the hot summer weather, this type of clothing is more comfortable than sleeved dresses and shirts. Students would like to have this rule changed so they are able to have comfort while learning.

So far, only a handful of elementary, middle, and high schools have made improvements to their dress codes. Their guidelines are less gender biased and allow students to wear weather appropriate and comfortable clothing while still keeping things under control. Other schools have dropped free dress and switched to uniforms in order to avoid dress code complications. Either way, these schools are paving the way for change all across America.

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