More than 80 percent of the students at Edwardsville High School in Illinois disagree with the school’s dress code and the methods the school uses to enforce it, according to a poll of 710 students reported by Maddox Karnes in the student newspaper.
“What are you trying to prove by telling every single girl who walks into the school that they need to cover up?” one senior girl was quoted as saying.
Although the school’s dress code was put in place to ensure that students “dress and groom in a manner that meets reasonable community standards … while not disrupting the educational process,” Maddox points out that its effect is often the exact opposite.
“We missed our whole first hour, and it was the third day of school,” another senior girl who got dress coded was quoted as saying.
Students have the option of donning a school football shirt—or some other clothing that school officials would consider more “reasonable” by community standards—or going home to change, which disrupts the educational process even more.
Furthermore, most students who get dress coded at Edwardsville and many schools are girls, and that’s a problem for several reasons.
The Constitution’s 14th Amendment guarantees equal treatment by schools that receive federal and state dollars. A federal court ruling this summer, which technically affects only North Carolina charter schools, found that since charter schools are publicly funded, as are all public schools, the school’s enforcement of the dress code cannot impose harsher burdens on female students than male.
The 10-to-6 ruling in June from the US Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit said that the dress code at the Charter Day School in Leland, North Carolina, “blatantly perpetuates harmful gender stereotypes,” as it required girls to wear skirts. In a blog post when the case first went to court more than five years ago, one female student said it was “distracting and uncomfortable” to worry about the position of her legs while sitting in class.
To the extent, then, that dress codes disrupt the thinking of students who have to wear clothes that make them uncomfortable, girls more so than boys, they are wrong and run afoul of the mission of our schools, but to the extent that they create situations where girls are subject to protections that don’t match those for boys, the dress codes may be unconstitutional.
Schools aren’t the only government-funded institutions with dress codes that seem a bit arbitrary. A female reporter covering an execution in Alabama was dress coded by prison officials last month for having a skirt that was too short.
I first covered an execution in 2002, and have covered many since then. This was the first time I had to stand to have the length of my attire checked. https://t.co/Rtr6EXr4T5
— Kim Chandler (@StatehouseKim) July 30, 2022