Column: Dress Codes Discriminate and Disrupt Classrooms


Example of outfit in which female student receives a dress code violation.

Hannah Farrell, Student of Journalism

The format of a dress code has objectified and sexualized female students for generations and it is time to speak out. School dress codes were started in 1969 by the U.S. Supreme Court. Fashion trends, body image, self expression, sexuality and what is deemed appropriate is different and progressive in this day and age than any other time in history. When dress coded, it is found that social status, body figure, gender and race are all major factors. Countless stories exist of females feeling insecure about their body once faculty comment on it. These rules are not fair or equal and once these roles are distributed in the classroom, and it is not a safe educational environment anymore. 

 Dress codes are sexist, sexualizing bodies, targeting, racist and overall outdated.  

Now, many parents and staff often struggle with what should be deemed inappropriate and want guidelines but do not know where to draw the line. Dress codes in an ideal world could create structure. But if school faculties are having a mindset of pick and choose toward dress codes, it will result in insecurity and a disruptive environment. This is often sending the message that it is okay to criminalize males and sexualize females even at this young of age. A study conducted by the American Psychological Association in 2007 reveals that authors found sexualizing female students can also lead to a “lower self-esteem, negative mood and depressive symptoms.” The APA argues that the sexualization of girls is a broad and increasing problem and is harmful to girls.  The APA Task Force on the Sexualization of Girls was formed in response to these expressions of public concern. Additional research in 2014 by Women’s eNews    confirms “diminished sexual health.” 

Descending off of the base fact of dress codes sexualize females, adding on top of that, females with a curvier figure and/or are a minority seem to get dress coded exactly for their body and physique more so. “We are not trying to show off our bodies to guys. We are more confident in our bodies than before. Now we are starting to finally accept ourselves,” senior Pao Beltran said.  She bleives that her generation is about body positivity and that can be taken as inappropriate by a certain status quo. Beltran goes on to say, “Popularity definitely plays a part, and I guess if your positively known in the school, people are going to care less about what you wear.” 

Unfortunately, dress codes are also target minorities. It is the same rules for all girls right? In reality, black female students get coded usually in a targeting and humiliating way with stricter rules objectively, because they have more to show.  Schools also do not see how culturally different styles of clothing can be, resulting in targeting clothing that are apart of a particular minority group, which is discriminatory, according to Nea Today.  The result of this can cause black students to fall behind academically, credited to a 2018 National Women’s Law Center study. 

In comparison, people from the 18th century were supposed to wear special corset, wool, a train and etc. If you did not wear the right dress code, then you were punished and looked down upon. Clothing has changed over time and what was deemed appropriate then is different from now. Things that were appropriate to wear just 30 or 50 years ago are so different from now and today’s culture. 

In defense, students across the country have raised concerns over these discriminatory dress codes. In June, students from South-Orange Maplewood School District in New Jersey established a hashtag “IAmMoreThanADistraction” and in the following September about 100 students walked out of class in retaliation for a strict dress code at Bingham High School in South Jordan, Utah. The dress code was for the school’s homecoming, which prevented many females from entering according to Daily News

Ultimately, dress codes are sexist, sexualizing bodies, targeting, racist and overall outdated. Now we can evaluate what a dress code looks like for our generation. Throughout time, women were told they could not do, wear or be whatever they want but now we deserve to have a new type of confidence in our females of the 20th century. Schools must evolve with these new independent females otherwise their future will be suffocated. Female students are not a distraction or a pick and choose game. They are the people that will influence our next generation.