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Sexist dress codes erode school promises of fairness and excellence

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On a recent Cobb online parenting forum with over 100 responses, a mother lamented how a high school teacher dwelled on girls’ boobs while outlining the dress code, which left her teenage daughter feeling bad. comfortable.

A mother in a suburban neighborhood told me that her daughter now tries on several outfits each night to avoid being coded. She was on her way to school and a male administrator pointed out that she was growing up and it wouldn’t be legal to wear her shorts any longer. How do you think my teenage daughter felt that morning walking into school and hearing an adult male comment on her legs and growth pattern? It really is sexual harassment and discrimination that is happening in our public schools, the mother said.

The way we talk about the body can have drastic and negative effects on children and teens, said Kelly Reddy-Best, a professor at Iowa State University and author of Dress, Appearance, and Diversity in American Society.

It’s so important to be able to experiment and express yourself and see what fits. Limiting that can really hurt children, Reddy-Best said in a phone interview. Allowing children to express their authentic selves in all that it means can be very powerful and make them feel more positive about their bodies and happier overall. Overall, the social psychology literature of clothing says over and over again that if we feel good about what we wear, we feel good about our bodies, ourselves, and others.

Girls are fighting back, organizing petitions, speaking out at board meetings and, as Howard Middle School students did on Aug. 5, showing up to school with messages on their forearms or T-shirts declaring, #IAmNotADistraction.

Some schools are listening. The latest federal data shows that 43.7% of public schools enforced a strict dress code in 2019-20, up from 56.9% a decade earlier.

Richard Thompson Ford, a professor at Stanford Law School, is an expert in civil rights and anti-discrimination law and author of the book Dress codes: How the laws of fashion have marked history.

He advises schools to throw away dress codes, especially when up to 90% of enforcement falls on girls. You’re targeting girls with the outdated idea that they’re responsible for distracting boys, Ford said. Frankly, my advice is to drop these dress codes unless the students are wearing something that you are concerned about their safety at home or that violates principles of public decency. Dress codes just aren’t worth the fight.

While school administrators believe they can define clothing as sexy or erotic, the history of dress demonstrates that what is considered erotic changes from generation to generation and culture to culture, Ford said. A generation ago, the bare belly was also sexy; today’s students just don’t see it that way, he said. It’s not fun for them, it’s just fashionable.

Those who ignore dress codes as a minor infraction don’t realize the cost to girls who may have to buy new clothes and lose instruction time when sent home, Ford said. And the daily judgments of their bodies by adults in schools add to the insecurities that are already part of growing up.

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2/ https://www.ajc.com/education/get-schooled-blog/opinion-sexist-dress-codes-erode-school-pledges-of-equity-excellence/LST6LA7NXFH3LHDR5BWEXORTI4/

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