Seattle School District’s Dress Code Making Headlines For All The Right Reasons

Dress codes have become a hot-button topic in the last few years. Students have been sent home because of tank tops, improper shoes, and even hair that schools don’t deem “appropriate.” Specifically, dress codes are being outed as gender-biased, meaning that boys are often given more leeway than girls. Also, girls are being called “distracting to the boys” when they wear something other than a t-shirt…so that’s an issue.

Flickr – Umezy12

But Seattle Public Schools have just released their dress code for the upcoming school year, and people are applauding how inclusive it is. Let’s start with their core values:

Core Values

In relation to student dress, the district’s core values are the following:

• Students should be able to dress and style their hair for school in a manner that expresses their individuality without fear of unnecessary discipline or body shaming;

• Students have the right to be treated equitably. Dress code enforcement will not create disparities, reinforce or increase marginalization of any group, nor will it be more strictly enforced against students because of racial identity, ethnicity, gender identity, gender expression, gender nonconformity, sexual orientation, cultural or religious identity, household income, body size/type, or body maturity;

• Students and staff are responsible for managing their personal distractions; and

• Students should not face unnecessary barriers to school attendance.

The fact that the the code points out that individuals are responsible for managing their own personal “distractions” is big. It means that girls won’t be held responsible for making sure boys aren’t “tempted” or whatever it is that’s happening to them when girls wear shorts. The code also points out gender identity and body size (among other things) which is a big step.

The actual dress code is pretty spectacular as well.

Universal Dress Code

Students must wear:

• Top (shirt, blouse, sweater, sweatshirt, tank, etc.);

• Bottom (pants, shorts, skirt, dress, etc.); and

• Footwear.

Some girls have been sent home for not wearing bras at school before, so only listing three mandatory elements can be seen as a win. There aren’t any restrictions about “shorts that are longer than your finger tips” or “tank tops that are three fingers wide.” Basically as long as you have clothes on, you’re good.

Another great part of the code is how it bans hate-group association and gang affiliation.

This policy permits additional student attire requirements when necessary to ensure safety in certain academic settings (e.g. physical activity, science or CTE courses). Additionally, this policy allows for reasonable variation in required student attire for participation in activities such as swimming or gymnastics.

Students may not wear clothing, jewelry, or personal items that:

• Are pornographic, contain threats, or that promote illegal or violent conduct such as the unlawful use of weapons, drugs, alcohol, tobacco, or drug paraphernalia;

• Demonstrate hate group association/affiliation and/or use hate speech targeting groups based on race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, religious affiliation, or other protected groups;

• Intentionally show private parts (nipples, genitals, buttocks). Clothing must cover private parts in opaque (not able to be seen-through) material;

• Cover the student’s face to the extent that the student is not identifiable (except clothing/headgear worn for a religious or medical purpose); or

• Demonstrate gang association/affiliation. Attire worn in observance of a student’s religion are not subject to this policy. This policy permits schools with a uniform policy to continue having a uniform policy provided that it is gender neutral and inclusive of attire worn for a religious reason.

Perhaps the most important part of the code, in my opinion, is how it explicitly states that students aren’t allowed to be publicly reprimanded for dress code violations.

Enforcement

Principals are required to ensure that all staff are aware of and understand the guidelines of this policy.

Staff will use reasonable efforts to avoid dress-coding students in front of other students.

Students shall not be disciplined or removed from class as a consequence for wearing attire in violation of this policy unless the attire creates a substantial disruption to the educational environment, poses a hazard to the health or safety of others, or factors into a student behavior rule violation such as malicious harassment or the prohibition on harassment, intimidation, and bullying.

Further, no student shall be referred to as “a distraction” due to their appearance or attire.

I think this dress code is really important, because dress codes enforcements are becoming more distracting than the perceived dress code infractions are. Hopefully other schools and districts can follow suit.

What do you think of this new dress code?