This School Now Has One Dress Code for All Genders — But Why Doesn’t Every School?

A school district in Virginia will roll out a brand-spankin’-new dress code this fall that uses completely gender-neutral language throughout — with nary a “distraction” mention in sight. Translation: This dress code does not target and police the bodies of young girls, which is basically how every other school district in the country formats its dress code.

The Roanoke County School Board, along with a parent vote that garnered 59% approval, passed the new dress code on Thursday. Their old dress code, like many others that languish in school welcome packets that haven’t been updated in decades, included a ton of female-centric language, mentioning “bra straps,” “cleavage,” “spaghetti straps” and “skirt length” (which, of course, shouldn’t come higher than mid-thigh apparently).

The school’s new dress code, though, is far more refreshing — and is completely gender-neutral. Tops must have “shoulder straps,” and the entire area from armpit to armpit must be covered, and bottoms must be at least 3″ long. That’s it. That’s the dress code. No “cleavage,” no “bare midriffs,” no “exposed shoulders or backs,” no “spaghetti straps.” The dress code is straightforward, easy to understand, and while it covers many of the restrictions set forth in prior iterations of the code, it doesn’t use language that puts the burden of avoiding classroom “distraction” on girls alone.

My third child is will be a junior in high school this upcoming fall, and I’ve waded through more dress codes than I care to remember. And they pretty much always unfairly target girls’ bodies. We recently got a high school registration packet in the mail for the upcoming school year, and I read through it with rising levels of rage. The word “distraction” popped up multiple times — and the prohibited items were those favored by young women, such as halter tops, spaghetti straps and crop tops.

A simple dress code that uses gender-neutral language while clearly outlining expectations in an easy-to-follow format? That easily solves this issue. It’s a good move for Roanoke — but can every school district please follow suit now?

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