We’re only a few weeks into the new school year, but already kids all over the country are being called out for supposed dress code violations and humiliated in class. The most recent incident happened in Fort Mill, South Carolina, where a student was forced to wear a heavy jacket on a warm, sunny day because her shoulders were showing.
Mom Alicia Rogers says her 10-year-old daughter was shamed by school administrators when she showed up to class wearing athletic shorts and a tank top with thick, crisscrossed straps. The school’s dress code only prohibits tank tops with spaghetti straps, but administrators decided the crisscrossed straps showed too much skin on the girl’s back and shoulders. The 10-year-old was forced to wear a jacket over her top and wasn’t allowed to remove it all day, even when her class went outside for recess in sweltering temperatures.
The jacket on its own is a disturbing and humiliating punishment, but Rogers says what upset her even more is the fact that she was never notified about what was going on. She says no one called her to bring a change of clothes or to let her know that her daughter was being forced to carry out an all-day punishment that put her at risk of overheating. She maintains that her daughter didn’t violate the dress code, but also wants a major change in how dress code violations are handled.
Dress codes are kind of a hot topic for modern parents. Where these guidelines once represented an effort to create a safe, distraction-free learning environment, it now seems as though they’re causing more problems than they’re solving. Kids are being yanked out of class, shamed, humiliated and forced to endure pointless punishments, all for wearing clothes that would be viewed as totally acceptable in any other setting.
When we force girls to put sweat pants over their leggings or wear coats over their tank tops, what we’re really teaching them is that their bodies are inherently sexual and inappropriate, and that they’re solely responsible for not being a “distraction” to other (presumably male) students. Similarly, we’re giving boys the message that they’re not responsible for their impulses, that certain girls deserve more respect than others based on what they’re wearing and that it’s up to girls to alter their appearance to make others more comfortable.
It makes sense to want to create a positive learning environment, but that’s not what these dress codes are doing. Instead, they’re costing kids valuable class time, sending overwhelmingly negative messages to both boys and girls and forcing kids to carry out dangerous and embarrassing punishments like wearing a jacket on a hot, summery day. Our strange and outdated obsession with “appropriate” clothing is not more important than the well being of kids, and it’s beyond time for current school dress codes to finally get the axe.