Ah, the infamous school dress code. No showing your shoulders, no wearing short shorts, no wearing open-toe shoes, and, of course, no featuring Bruce Lee on your shirt!
We all know schools tend to go overboard with their dress code rules, but there’s often nothing students can do aside from bite their tongues and cover up. However, one creative mother recently shared a story on the Malicious Compliance subreddit detailing how she reacted after her son was sent home for wearing a shirt with “nudity” on it. Below, you’ll find the full story, as well as some of the replies amused readers left her.
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School dress codes are notorious for being unnecessarily strict
Image credits: Daniel Andraski (not the actual photo)
So after this woman’s son was sent home for dressing “inappropriately”, she decided to turn his shirt into an art project
Image source: Nanerpus_is_my_Homie
Image credits: RDNE Stock project (not the actual photo)
Later, the mom responded to several comments and provided additional information on the situation
Dress codes are extremely common within schools in the United States
Image credits: Polina Tankilevitch (not the actual photo)
I still remember the one time I got “an infraction” for violating my middle school’s dress code. We typically wore uniforms, but on occasion, we had the opportunity to wear a school t-shirt, jeans and sneakers. I, however, wore “jeggings”, which were considered too tight and inappropriate, so I got dress coded halfway through the day. I remember crying in the bathroom after this terrifying experience, but nowadays, it’s just annoying to think about. What is so inappropriate about a 12-year-old wearing vaguely tight pants?
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Dress codes have been the subject of plenty of controversy over the past few decades. According to Gitnux, about 55% of public schools and 65% of private schools in the United States enforce dress codes. It’s unlikely that they’re going anywhere any time soon either, as 80% of school administrators believe they “positively affect student behavior,” and 72% of parents agree that these rules benefit their children. The students, on the other hand, often don’t feel as optimistic about their school’s dress codes. 58% of students who were affected by their school’s enforcement of dress code rules report experiencing negative feelings. Yet they don’t always know how to avoid being dress coded, when the parameters are of the school’s rules are vague. Apparently, only one fifth of public schools in the US actually have clearly defined and enforced dress code policies.
However, they are often criticized for disproportionately targeting girls and minorities
Image credits: Tima Miroshnichenko (not the actual photo)
And while the student in this particular story who was dress coded was a boy, many dress codes disproportionately target girls. According to The Grizzly Growler, girls are 5.5 times more likely than boys to be suspended for school due to dress code issues, and they’re often told they must dress a certain way so as not to “distract” boys. US News reports that more than 90% of dress code rules specifically target clothing typically worn by girls, such as halter or spaghetti strap tops, short skirts and shorts, and yoga pants or any sort of tight clothing. Many believe that these rules sexualize young girls and make them feel uncomfortable in their learning environment. “There can’t be any skin showing,” one high school senior told US News. “It’s very one-sided and very sexist, to say the least, no matter what. The reasoning that they usually give is so that you’re not distracting anyone.”
Apparently, about 60% of dress code rules also require staff members to measure students’ bodies and clothing to ensure that they comply, such shorts that must have at least a 5-inch inseam and skirts that cannot fall more than two inches above the knee. This can cause adult staff to touch their students, making young girls feel less safe at school. Dress codes often unfairly target minority racial or cultural groups as well, with some banning head coverings such as bandanas and scarves and others prohibiting certain hairstyles such as dreadlocks or cornrows.
Despite being well-intentioned, dress codes have the power to make students feel unwelcome and unsafe
“If we’re targeting students’ identities, then we’re sending a message that you don’t belong here and you’re disrupting the space simply by being, and that’s not the message that we want to send,” Courtney Mauldin, an assistant professor of educational leadership in the teaching and leadership department at the Syracuse University School of Education, told US News. “Especially if schools are supposed to be these places of learning and joy and belonging.”
Dress codes are often defended because, in theory, they promote a professional learning environment that keeps the focus on education, rather than who’s wearing the best outfit or who has the most expensive shoes. But they also often require teachers to waste valuable time assessing their students’ clothing choices and reinforce racist and sexist standards of beauty. We would love to hear your thoughts on this story in the comments below, pandas. Would you have responded in the same way that this mother did, or do you believe that a shirtless Bruce Lee has no place in the classroom? Feel free to share, and then if you’re interested in checking out another Bored Panda article discussing school dress codes, look no further than right here.
Amused readers applauded the mother for her creativity, and some even shared similar, personal experiences