Dress Codes Are Damaging to Students

Graduating from a private high school I always had a dress code. For me being told what I had to wear felt like I had no choice or freedom.

A teens year is all about finding and discovering themselves before they must graduate and become a contributing member of society. By having a dress code schools are hindering a huge part of their students’ identities. When a high school in America implements a dress code, they are oppressing their students and taking away a fundamental form of self-expression.

The identity of students is far more complex than just self-expression. Some students do not identify with the typical gender stereotypes most dress codes have. These students can face even more gender dysphoria by not being able to wear what they would like. This also extend to sexism when enforcing dress codes. Mostly girls are selectively chosen to be enforced upon rather than their male counterparts (Lumsden, L.). It has been seen that girls are taken out of school for being dress coded and missing essential classes because their shirt or skirt doesn’t fit the precedent rules. Often the argument made to protect male students from being distracted but doesn’t bring up the fact that the girls are being distracted from their own schoolwork. As well as students facing public humiliation by being put in clothing that is unflattering and shameful to wear for the entire school to see (Lumsden, L.). These shaming tactics are even more damaging to students self-confidence and contradicting the fact that dress codes are made to help students focus better on school.

The freedom of expression is the first amendment in the United States Constitution. A dress code breaks these rights and makes school seem like an authoritarian regimen (Lumsden, L.). Learning is not the main goal of school anymore, but more about following the dress code and giving teachers an authoritarian role at school. Legal schools can implement the dress code however for the new policy the school needs to specify how the dress code relates to the ability to educate students (Lumsden, L.).

Most dress codes are to form compliancy than to help students with their abilities to learn. Many schools claim that the dress code helps bring a united front to the school and gives students a sense of safety and security. A dress code can give students a sense of physical security. By having a specific uniform student can’t bring in weapons too harm others. There is also a sense of psychological security for some students (Workman, J. E., & Freeburg, B. W.). This mental security is helpful to some students by giving them a sense of conformity. These factors may seem helpful but there is no clear evidence that shows that a dress code is not stopping any further violence or really helping students psychologically. By making students dress all the same it is causing them not to fully come into their sense of identity in the most formative years of their life.

Dress codes are built with the right ideas to help their students, but over time they have become inherently harmful. Teachers are given power over their students and not using it in the proper way. Shaming and penalizing students is taking away from their learning, which is the essential of school. How are students expected to succeed when they are so worried about what they wear? Dress codes are not helping students; they are destroying students’ identities and not providing them with the learning they need.

Works Cited

Cascio, C. (2017, November 21). Benefits & Disadvantages of Wearing School Uniforms. Education Seattle Pi. Retrieved education.seattlepi.com/benefits-disadvantages-wearing-school-uniforms-3034.html

Harbach, M. J. (2016). Sexualization, Sex Discrimination, and Public-School Dress Codes. Law Faculty Publications – University of Richmond Research Retrieved scholarship.richmond.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=2275&context=law-faculty-publications

Kelly, W. (2017, January). Gender identity in schools: School uniforms and dress codes: Are your policies discriminatory? (Part Two). School Governance. Retrieved www.schoolgovernance.net.au/news/2017/01/25/gender-identity-in-schools-part-2-school-uniforms-and-dress-codes-are-your-policies-discriminatory

Lumsden, L. (2001). Uniforms and Dress-Code Policies. Eric Digest. Retrievedscholarsbank.uoregon.edu/xmlui/bitstream/handle/1794/3371/digest148.pdf?sequence=1

Mandal, S. (2020). Dress Codes and Uniforms. National Youths Rights Association. Retrieved www.youthrights.org/issues/student-rights/dress-codes-and-uniforms/

Workman, J. E., & Freeburg, B. W. (2006). Safety and Security in a School Environment: The Role of Dress Code Policies. Journal of Family and Consumer Sciences98(2), 19–24. Retrieved www.proquest.com/openview/84eae7da92d05eed1a63442a61eda9f4/1?cbl=41036&parentSessionId=A8NSJDKrIjrX0seNzBBpNvZSPzzfbb8w34nR5W%2FvwZ8%3D&pq-origsite=gscholar

Grace Tath

I am a freshman at Stephens College. I play softball and am majoring in Fashion Marketing and Management. I'm originally from Iowa and love baking.

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