School Dress Code Reform

where are our dress code initiatives?
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In places across the world, schools can harbour sexism in their very policies. Dress codes are no exception, and we are fighting discriminatory dress code policies with fierce determination.

where are our dress code initiatives?
start a dress code reform initiative

Speaking to School Boards

Watch our initiatives in action, as we hold school counties accountable for ensuring equitable policies and reforming discriminatory dress code policies!

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Our Fight Against Dress Codes

In 2020, we spearheaded our first dress code reform initiative in Seminole County Public Schools (SCPS) in Florida. After gathering 2,600+ signatures and student testimonies, our 23-page comprehensive dress code reform plan was finalized to address the gender-discriminatory practices targeting feminine students. This plan, which was sent to officials across the district, included legal arguments, student testimonies, revisions for policies, and student-suggested training for teachers. We met with staff from all over our county—deans, principals, directors, and district attorneys—to speak up about the inequity we were witnessing. In July 2021, the new Code of Conduct was released, bearing the removal of the word “cleavage” from the dress code policy. Currently, we are working to remove additional discriminatory language from the policy, but we celebrate the removal of the blatantly sexist “cleavage” provision.

The Focus of Our Reform Initiatives

Our suggested dress codes eliminate language that targets specific genders, such as prohibitions on “cleavage,” “tube tops,” and “halter tops,” or language that has prohibitions that only apply to one gender, such as “boys cannot wear earrings.” We also concentrate on minimizing enforcement discrepancies by standardizing the identification process for violations and honoring due process.

Expansion

Reform has since expanded to Rocklin Unified School District (RUSD) in California, Martin County Public Schools in Florida, Pueblo County District 60 Schools in Colorado, and Lake of Two Mountains High School in Canada. Through these initiatives, we continue our legacy of combating gender discrimination in schools and promoting self-advocacy in students. We’ve successfully changed enforcement policies in Martin County Public Schools to mitigate the objectification of feminine individuals, and alongside our success in Seminole County Public Schools, we’ve used our successes to guide our future initiatives.

Dress Code Reform: Our Advice and Tips

We built this organization via dress code reform movements, and we’ve learned many lessons along the way. Here’s our advice for others working to reform their dress codes.

1. Show your school/county that dress code reform is an issue of equity. If feminine students are pulled out of class to be dress coded while male students continue learning, inequity is occuring.

2. Do your research and come prepared. If you are in the United States, research Title IX and vocalize your concerns about Title IX compliance if the dress code is gender discriminatory.

3. Find the people in your school/county who are responsible for writing Code of Conduct/dress code policies. Contact them and meet with them. Speak up at school board meetings. Meeting with school principals and deans is also important, as they have input and perspectives students likely wouldn’t usually see.

The Bottom Line: Students are stakeholders, so use your voice. If schools have gender discriminatory dress codes, speak up, meet with your county, and show them how detrimental sexist dress codes can be.

additional resource: aclu dress code information

Dress Code Reform: Our Advice and Tips

We built this organization via dress code reform movements, and we’ve learned many lessons along the way. Here’s our advice for others working to reform their dress codes.

1. Show your school/county that dress code reform is an issue of equity. If feminine students are pulled out of class to be dress coded while male students continue learning, inequity is occuring.

2. Do your research and come prepared. If you are in the United States, research Title IX and vocalize your concerns about Title IX compliance if the dress code is gender discriminatory.

3. Find the people in your school/county who are responsible for writing Code of Conduct/dress code policies. Contact them and meet with them. Speak up at school board meetings. Meeting with school principals and deans is also important, as they have input and perspectives students likely wouldn’t usually see.

The Bottom Line: Students are stakeholders, so use your voice. If schools have gender discriminatory dress codes, speak up, meet with your county, and show them how detrimental sexist dress codes can be.

additional resource: aclu dress code information

Sexist dress codes have to go

As part of our initiatives, we collect testimony from those impacted by the inequity we are fighting against. Below are some testimonies we’ve collected.

Content warning: sexualization

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“My male dean was staring at my chest and it was making me really uncomfortable…He then… [told] me that girls with…bigger chests can’t [wear low-cut shirts]. It made me cry…I was literally 11 or 12 at the time.”

– Anonymous, Florida, Dress Code Initiative Testimony


“There was a day where [the school dean] chased me down the hallway for the dress code…She called me ghetto and told me…that I looked like a hooker.”

– Anonymous, Florida, Dress Code Initiative Testimony


“I got dress coded and told that I was dressed like a slut.”

– Anonymous, California, Dress Code Initiative Testimony


“A male teacher told my sister she couldn’t wear her shorts because he was distracted by them. [My sister was 11 years old]”

– Anonymous, California, Dress Code Initiative Testimony

“My male dean was staring at my chest and it was making me really uncomfortable…He then… [told] me that girls with…bigger chests can’t [wear low-cut shirts]. It made me cry…I was literally 11 or 12 at the time.”

– Anonymous, Florida, Dress Code Initiative Testimony


“There was a day where [the school dean] chased me down the hallway for the dress code…She called me ghetto and told me…that I looked like a hooker.”

– Anonymous, Florida, Dress Code Initiative Testimony


“I got dress coded and told that I was dressed like a slut.”

– Anonymous, California, Dress Code Initiative Testimony


“A male teacher told my sister she couldn’t wear her shorts because he was distracted by them. [My sister was 11 years old]”

– Anonymous, California, Dress Code Initiative Testimony

“Our wounds are often the openings into the best and most beautiful part of us.”