Many high schools and middle schools nationwide have a dress code policy. The majority seem to be targeted toward female students. Schools outlaw clothing items that are commonly believed to be a distraction in the classroom, such as shorts, skirts, tank tops and crop tops. The problem with these restrictions is that they are sexist against female students, as these items are primarily women’s clothing.
Dress codes, which typically affect girls who are still in high school, send a message that girls’ bodies are a distraction, and are responsible for boys losing focus. Girls are unfairly the victims of dress code policies. Boys aren’t typically subjected to the restraints of a dress code.
The concept of distraction comes up often when discussing school dress codes, but what the word distracting actually means is subjective. Anything can be considered distracting. There are many more distracting obstacles such as texting in class, which is an issue regardless of gender, that has not been dealt with.
Dress codes are a way of controlling what girls wear. Oftentimes the clothing items that are banned are pieces that display shoulders or upper legs. By policing what girls are wearing to school, it is sexualizing young girls. To me, it sounds like schools are saying that girls should have to cover up their natural bodies because they are too distracting to be seen.
When students don’t comply to a dress code, they are shamed for it, causing extreme embarrassment. According to ABC News, one school in Florida went as far as to force a girl, who did not follow the dress code, to wear a so-called shame suit. Oakleaf High School in Orange Park, Florida, forced 15-year-old Miranda Larkin to wear a large neon-yellow T-shirt that had the words “dress code violation” on the front. This neon atrocity of an outfit is way more distracting than a young girl wearing shorts or a tank top.
Another case of a female student being shamed because of a school’s dress code policy is when Lizzy Martinez, 17, did not wear a bra to school due to a painful sunburn. According to The New York Times, two school officials from Braden River High School in Florida pulled Martinez out of class and demanded that she put bandages over her nipples because they deemed it inappropriate she was not wearing a bra. The most inappropriate part of the situation is that school administrators were focused on a student’s breasts, rather than her education.
Dress codes should not shame young girls. Schools embarrass girls and make them feel insecure when they decide that their outfits are inappropriate for school. It does more harm than good to control what students are wearing to school.