Outdated policies disproportionately affect certain students

Dress codes objectify, invalidate


Abby Intveld

As I walked into the school building like I do every morning, it didn’t even cross my mind that my shorts could offend anyone, let alone violate a school policy. When I was stopped in the hallway and told I was not dressed accordingly and should change, I was mortified and embarrassed.

According to the St. Louis Park High School handbook, students whose bottoms don’t extend to mid-thigh are in violation of the appropriate dress policy. Other violations include the exposure of cleavage, midriff and undergarments such as bra straps. These are all clothing limitations that apply more to the female demographic.

In one Staten Island school, 200 dress code violations were reported with roughly 180 students  — 90 percent — being female, according to the New York Post. It is unjust and inequitable for schools to target females in their dress policies.

Dress code policies are an unacceptable form of objectification in which the female body and shape is shamed. Young girls are hypersexualized when they’re told their legs and shoulders are distractions.

Although I was not sent home nor formally reprimanded in my experience, this is not always the case for female students at other schools.

In an Education Partnerships, Inc research brief, it was concluded that sending students home or placing them in isolation due to dress code violations negatively affects their school performance. This is especially concerning when females are the majority of students facing these consequences and being denied an education.

Likewise, gender nonconforming or transgender students are highly affected by dress codes compared to cisgender students. According to a GLSEN study, 32 percent of the transgender students surveyed had been prevented from wearing clothes that differed from their legal sex. This is worrying because restricting a student’s expression through clothing invalidates their identity.

The intended purpose of appropriate dress clauses is to increase safety and comfort within schools, but sadly, this is not the reality. Dress code policies create an unacceptable environment for female and LGBT students where they feel their safety and expression is in danger.