Dress Codes are Unneeded in Public Schools

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Dress Codes are Unneeded in Public Schools

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Through loopholes in constitutional promises to freedom of expression, more and more schools are beginning to implement dress codes into their schools as schools claim that they make their buildings safer and prepare students for the workforce. However, these claims are unsubstantiated and often enforced in an attempt to fall in line with archaic social norms. Enforcing dress codes in schools damages the youth’s ability to assess proper attire based on context, promote a culture of sexualization and misogyny, and suppress individual’s constitutional right to express their individuality in a non-offensive way.

Most administrators claim they prefer to implement dress codes in their schools to teach their students what type of attire is appropriate in the average workplace. More often than not, the dress codes allow clothing such as sweatpants, leggings, and ripped jeans. All of these listed articles of clothing are acceptable for the average public; however, a professional work environment would never allow any of these listed items to be worn.

This can be seen as confusing by students who have been taught that their everyday sweatshirt – sweatpants combo is “workplace appropriate” as it falls in lines with their high school dress code. The youth should instead be taught what type of clothing is acceptable in what type of situation.

For example, certain places of work require uniforms, some do allow casual attire, but most professional environments require business professional clothing, which is often oppressed by constricting dress codes. This is demonstrated most often in the common dress or skirt length rule where the line is drawn at two inches above the knee even though this attire presents the individual in a more presentable manner.

Furthermore, in this “MeToo” era, constricting certain body parts such as shoulders, legs, lower back and midriff due to the fact that they are “distracting” to certain students promotes the idea that these body parts should be seen as distracting even though they are shared by the entirety of the human population.

In the majority of rape and sexual harassment cases, the harasser claims that the victim was “asking for it” by showing too much skin or a body part that is seen as sexual. While some of this can be blamed on human nature, the majority of this unnecessary sexualization of the body is taught in our youth by authorities promoting the idea that our legs, shoulders, lower back and midriff is not appropriate for professional or casual occasions. In fact there is no scientific proof as to why these body parts would be seen as sexual as they are not involved in the reproductive process, illustrating the idea that this culture of rape and harassment is not to be blamed on human nature. We are instead taught these double standards and learn to hide our bodies in fear of unwanted sexual attention.

Schools should instead teach that demeaning an individual’s worth to a part of their body is an unacceptable, archaic belief and has no place in modern society; rather than prevent the issue by fueling the idea that we should continue to hide our bodies. The best way to prevention is through assessing and handling the problem at the root.

Additionally, discovery of identity is most often done so at a high school age and suppressing an individual’s right to expression is counterintuitive to the social exploration aspect of high school. As Americans we have the right to freely express ourselves and our views, yet dress codes teach us that conformity is the standard of society we should follow. This is damaging not only to the process of learning proper ways to express our individuality, but also to our self-confidence.