One high school is catching flak from parents over its dress code survey, which some say unfairly targets girls.
The survey in question has been made as the school — in Duncan, Okla. — tries to review its policies. It asks students questions about what styles and beauty looks are appropriate for school, and includes photos of a girl wearing various articles of clothing — an off-the-shoulder top, ripped jeans, a tank top, and athletic shorts. (The survey also asks questions about hair dye, piercings, and tattoos, but photos are not available for those options.)
“The thing that disturbs me most is every picture is of a young woman,” one parent said in a Facebook comment, according to ABC 7 KSWO News. “Girls shouldn’t be ashamed for having bodies,” another parent offered.
But not everyone takes issue with the survey. Parent Aimee Greening says the dress code is there to teach kids respect, and protect male students from distraction. “A lot of our daughters are very beautiful,” she said. “That’s why they are distracting. Not because of their hair color or what they are wearing. I mean, we can’t cover them completely head to toe. So we need to train our boys in the right way, and our girls to respect boys.”
While it is unclear how a dress code is supposed to teach girls to respect boys, Greening’s “distracting” explanation sounds a lot like others that have been used to police what girls wear to school. Last summer, a Victoria, Australia, school made headlines after officials advised female students to wear longer skirts and eschew makeup to “protect their integrity.” It put the burden on young girls to not be victims of unsavory behavior, assigning little responsibility to boys and grown predators.
Similarly, an Illinois middle school‘s dress code called what appears to be a perfectly normal-fitting T-shirt and leggings “distracting,” and “revealing,” and suggested female students wear an oversized T-shirt to be “ladylike” and not violate school dress code. One can’t help but wonder why boys aren’t scrutinized this way, or why girls are rarely considered to be in danger of being distracted by attractive boys.
Parenting expert and Unselfie author Dr. Michele Borba says that while a dress code is important, the way it is handled can sometimes be counterproductive. “There’s a behind-the-scenes thing that’s kind of important on this that we overlook,” Borba tells Yahoo Style. “The reason you have a dress code is to get the kids focused on a thing called learning, as opposed to what everyone looks like. That’s the bottom line, and they’re missing it.” Number two, she adds, is: “When kids do dress inappropriately, it’s a tremendous amount of time that administrators are spending disciplining the kids.”
Borba says that while dress codes can help kids focus more on school and she does believe they are important, they can sometimes make students more self-conscious about what they wear, and concerned about whether their clothing is in compliance with the rules.
Many school dress codes are similarly criticized for what is seen as unfair targeting of girls, but Borba says it’s because of the wider range of fashion options available to girls and young women. “It gets trickier and trickier with the girls because the deviation of fashion is so severe these days,” she said. With boys, the options are more limited. “It’s more, ‘you can wear these pants or those pants,’ and you can’t deviate as much.”
Duncan High Principal and dress code committee director Kelly Trinidad confirmed for ABC 7 KSWO News that most dress code infractions are made by girls, which is why the survey seem to be skewed. Gentry Cox, one of the students on the committee, agreed, saying, “Usually boys don’t wear short shorts, or they don’t wear off-the-shoulder tops.”
Yahoo Style’s requests for comment were not returned immediately by school administrators, but we will update our story if we hear back from them.
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