When dress codes go too far

Unlike almost all private and religious schools that have a dress code, public schools vary widely in their policies. The latest example is what happened to a gay student in Texas who painted his nails and was given an in-school suspension when he refused to remove the nail polish (“Texas high school suspends male teen over painted nails,” New York Daily News, Dec. 5).

I fail to see why the school made an issue of what is such a minor violation.  In fact, I wonder if dress codes are worthwhile in the first place in public schools.  I stress the latter because parents who opt for private or religious schools knowingly accept the rules as a small price to pay for what they consider a superior education for their children.

Public schools by their very nature serve a far more socioeconomically diverse group of students.  As a result, not all parents have the means to buy school uniforms. Moreover, the time it takes to enforce dress codes could be far better used elsewhere. 

(To post a comment, click on the title of this blog.)

2 Replies to “When dress codes go too far”

  1. Decent arguments on both sides of this issue. I’d opt for dress codes but not uniforms — probably influenced significantly by my personal experience 50+ years ago with what a public school should feel like. Seems that having no dress code at all leaves the school environment vulnerable to significant distractions/problems — like gang dress, competition for sexual-explicitness, and politically-charged or socially-charged dress intended to provoke confrontations. Agree that enforcing dress codes is a hassle for teachers and administrators, particularly if central admin and/or the courts back up students’ asserted rights to dress as they wish. On the other hand, the very existence of dress codes and their consistent enforcement sends the implicit message that school is a for-purpose operation rather than a place to hang out and socialize.


  2. Labor Lawyer: The devil is in the details. The amount of time involved in enforcing a dress code detracts from other more important issues. Unless there is parental buy-in, such codes are not worth it.


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