Introduction

Dress code restrictions in school and the workplace are not uncommon, which is why it is important for school administrators, educators, and employers to understand how to effectively communicate these restrictions. Dress codes are implemented with the intention of creating a certain atmosphere while also giving individuals a certain extent of freedom of expression which uniforms do not allow. It is extremely important for educators to learn how to teach in a school environment which has a dress code in order to promote a positive atmosphere where students feel comfortable and safe in their own skin. In addition, making sure that girls and transgender students don’t feel targeted by dress codes is a significant part of this process, as all students should be equally affected by these restrictions.

Resources

There are many available resources online for teaching with dress code restrictions. In particular, there are an abundance of horror stories about dress codes gone wrong, which are good to read so you know what approaches you shouldn’t take. These resources below, however, will help you to find the right approach to teaching in a school with dress code restrictions!

Lesson Plans

  1. What’s Fair and Unfair About Student Dress Codes?: ADL provides a brief lesson plan for students ages 11 and up on what is fair and unfair about student dress codes. This plan includes questions to start the conversation, which inquire whether students agree with their school dress code and if they believe that dress codes unfairly target girls, ideas for taking action, and more information on dress codes. If you are going to teach your students with dress code restrictions in place, it is important that both sides understand the advantages and disadvantages of dress codes, and ADL’s lesson plan will help you to do just that!

Articles

  1. How to Enforce the Student Dress Code in a Fair Way: WGU has published an article on how educators can enforce the student dress code in a fair way. This piece advises educators to make sure kids know what’s expected, avoid embarrassing dress code violations, and understand your students’ concerns. It is necessary for educators to know how to enforce the dress code restrictions at their school in order to help students understand what articles of clothing they should be wearing and why in a way that does not cause offense, especially towards girls. 
  2. Dress Codes – Their Importance, Their Weirdness, Their Impact: This article from Psychology Today discusses the importance, weirdness, and impact of school dress codes. The pressure (or lack thereof) for both teachers and students to dress appropriately for school in the morning is discussed, particularly the difference between this stress for males and females. This subject matter leads into the question of whether or not schools should adopt uniforms for adults and students in order to make life easier for all.
  3. What are the Benefits of the School Dress Code?: Bonneville Academy offers a bit of information on the benefits of a school dress code. According to the school, dress codes can limit acts of violence, allow students to concentrate on school activities, make it easier for students to get ready for school every day, limit the distractions that may arise in the classroom, help school administrators easily spot trespassers (in the situation where a school has uniforms), and limits the amount of mocking that occurs in the classroom.

Informational Sites

  1. Dress Codes: The First Amendment Encyclopedia has put together a page of information on dress codes. This article discusses the fact that the court has never directly addressed school dress codes, dress codes curtail gang violence, schools could find themselves in hot water if they do not abide by students’ expressive rights, there are both pros and cons of school dress codes, and more.
  2. Implementing and Enforcing Dress Codes: This policy can serve as an example for educators who are looking for ideas on how to communicate and enforce their school’s dress code. Included are examples of sanctions for when students break dress code and corresponding advice for educators and related policies, such as dress code exemptions and dress code legislation.

Conclusion

Teaching in a school with dress codes may be tough at times because situations where these restrictions are violated can be uncomfortable if we make them out to be. However, the resources above will help you to appropriately discuss the dress code with your students and create a positive classroom environment. School dress codes are meant to help, not harm, so be sure that all of your students feel supported throughout this process!

Additional Resources

  1. When School Dress Codes Discriminate: neaToday has published an article about when school dress codes discriminate against students. This article may be a good one for educators to read so they can better understand how to handle what they deem as school dress code infractions in a fair way that does not offend or embarrass students. At the end of the piece, educators will be able to read advice from a principal who has done her best to make all students feel comfortable, which is the goal that all educators likely have!
  2. The Unspoken Messages of Dress Codes – Uncovering Bias and Power: ADL provides an article on the unspoken messages of dress codes. The author describes the standard arguments in support of school uniforms and dress codes and the role of socioeconomic class in dress codes. In addition, provided are some guidelines for communicating with students about their dress code violations fairly and respectfully.
  3. School District Adopts Gender-Neutral Dress Code That Doesn’t Single Out Girls: Today offers an article on a school district that adopted a gender-neutral dress code that does not single out girls, as many other dress codes do. A draft of the dress code is provided in the article, which may be useful for educators and school districts that are looking for ideas for a new and more fair dress code.