Government report says student uniforms are a civil rights concern
Students, advocates, researchers and now a congressional watchdog are urging public schools to reconsider their dress codes, which some say are sexist, racist and classist, promote a culture of inequality and could hinder some children’s access to education .
These issues have been at the center of protests against local dress codes across the country, including in Cobb County, Georgia; Longview, Washington; and Sharon Hill, Pennsylvania, as schools resume face-to-face learning after pandemic closures.
A a high-profile case at a charter school in North Carolina — where girls were once required to wear skirts, skorts or dresses until a federal court intervened — could be heard by United States High Council.
Nearly all — about 93% — schools in the country have some sort of dress code policy, with about half of all schools enforcing a strict dress code and about one in five schools requiring a uniform, the Government Accountability Office found in a report. year. Most districts have several bans on spaghetti strap shirts, short skirts, leggings, muscle shirts, slacks, or certain colors or logos of clothing.
While often made in the name of security, some of these are rules may even jeopardize student welfare.
What can the federal government do?
The GAO report is one of the first federal calls to action, although groups including the American Civil Liberties Union have long argued that there are problems with school uniform policies.
GAO analysis shows that school uniform policies make some students feel unsafe and inherently discriminate against students of certain cultures and religions. And discipline in response to transgressions costs children’s learning time.
The agency conducted an analysis of informal layoffs for dress code violations in response to a request from Representatives Bobby Scott and the late Donald McEachin of Virginia, both Democrats, and because of a provision in an appropriation bill asking the agency to study it. . .
The GAO has asked the Department of Education to educate local school leaders about the negative effects of dress codes on the equality and safety of their students.
Following:Massachusetts school says it ‘assaulted’ a student who received a uniform violation for wearing a hijab
Are school dress codes discriminatory?
In its report, the agency says black and Hispanic students are more likely to attend schools with dress code rules than their white peers and that the policy creates “an unfair application of discipline.”
“While school districts often cite safety as a reason for having dress codes, many dress codes contain elements that can make the school environment less fair and unsafe for students,” the report states.
The federal government has no say in whether local schools enforce dress codes, but it can provide guidance.
Responding to the recommendations from the Department of Education, Catherine Lhamon, deputy secretary of the department’s Bureau of Civil Rights, said her office is evaluating how to further address the issue of school uniforms as a civil rights issue with district leaders. school.
Why do districts have dress codes?
Many local school leaders who ultimately decide whether or not to enforce dress codes believe that rules about how students dress can promote safety and fairness among students. Proponents of school uniforms and dress codes also argue that the policies can reduce crime, prevent bullying and prepare children for the job market.
According to Britannica ProCon, American public schools began requiring uniforms in the 1980s. In 1994, California’s Long Beach Unified School District was the first to mandate uniforms for all elementary and high school students. to protect children close to gang activity. More schools in California and across the country have followed suit, but many now claim the rules are outdated.
What to wear? Schools are increasingly making this choice
What else does the report say?
GAO officials were also concerned about policies regulating students’ hair, hairstyles, or head coverings that “could disproportionately affect black students and students of certain religions and cultures,” and uniform controls that often force adults to limit the length of skirts. or skirts accurately. widths of shirt straps.
Following:The pandemic puts school dress code into perspective: “We want to control our lives”
“This kind of over-control of the body begins in the early years and is often intensified by adults in the school setting,” the report said.
What’s next in the school uniform debate?
The number of schools with strict dress codes is decreasing: Schools with dress codes that are considered strict was down about 10% in 2020 compared to the 2013-2014 school year, although only a small number of schools requiring uniforms have since dropped that mandate, according to data from the National Center for Education Statistics included in the GAO report.
For example, a district in the San Francisco Bay Area relaxed its strict dress code in 2018 after a group of students dissatisfied with being penalized for violations proposed a new policy to school officials. .
Following:The California school’s unashamed dress code allows students to wear whatever they want
Experts are urging schools with rigid dress codes to look closely at how the policy helps or hurts students.
“I think the message of some of the dress codes has been that clothing or hair that is considered ‘inappropriate’ is a distraction from learning,” said Courtney Mauldin, an assistant professor in the Department of Education and Leadership at the university. Syracuse University. “However, for the racial, gender and cultural groups disproportionately affected by these policies, what suffers is their instruction time.”
Please contact Kayla Jimenez at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter at @kaylajjimenez.
Not all news on the site reflects the site’s point of view, but we automatically transmit and translate this news through programmatic technology on the site and not from a human editor.