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School Dress Codes and Constitutions

Have you or someone you know been unfairly judged by the school dress code? If so, then you’re not alone. Dress codes are the way school controls how students dress or look like as far as shorts, tank tops, piercings and tattoos. Many people agree and disagree with school dress codes. School’s should have less strict dress codes because it limits students opinions and differences, it is an infringement to student rights, and it causes students and parents stress.


School dress codes are stopping diversity and stomping out student’s opinion, but not everyone thinks that it is though. In the article “School Dress Codes Are Necessary and Constitutional” Stephen Daniels says, “ dress codes reduce conflict associated with name brand and gang clothing, decrease the gap between poor and rich students, and encourage a sense of belonging that contributes to overall order and discipline, “ (Web). In other words what Daniel’s is saying is it makes everyone the same, but  is diversity among students a bad thing? In the article, “School Dress Codes Limit Students' Freedom of Expression” It says just the opposite about diversity. “The responsibility remains with the school and its community to maintain an environment open to diversity and to educate and support its students as they confront ideas different from their own. Is ensuring an environment open to diversity sometimes messy or offensive? Of course it is. That's what freedom is all about. Most Americans wouldn't have it any other way.” ( Haynes, web). This show us that opinion and diversity is a natural thing in life, and that it is up to our schools to “ Maintain an environment open to diversity,” (Haynes, web). It doesn’t seem like schools are doing a very good job at it.


So, as you know, school has a problem with stomping out student’s opinions on what they should be able to wear, but did you know that it is actually taking away some of the student’s rights? In the article “School Dress Codes Limit Student’s Freedom of Expression” It talks about the rights called the tinker rights. “The Tinker case involved several students who decided to wear black armbands to school to protest U.S. involvement in Vietnam. Hearing about the planned protest, school officials quickly enacted a no-armband policy. When the students were told they couldn't wear their armbands (even though other symbols were allowed), they sued,” (Haynes, web). The tinker, as you can see from the quote, started as a law suite. “In finding for the students, the Court made clear that school officials may not ban student expression just because they don't like it—or because they think it might cause conflict. The school must have evidence that the student expression would lead to either (a.) a substantial disruption of the school environment, or (b.) an invasion of the rights of others.


The Tinker standard gives strong protection to political and religious speech by students in public schools. And most courts are likely to view a wide range of student expression from "redneck" to "gay, fine by me" as protected speech—unless the school can demonstrate with reasonable evidence that the speech will cause a "substantial disruption,” (Haynes, web). The tinker protects students right to wear certain things, but it seems like the schools pay no attention to that. From experience, i know a girl who was wearing a dress with a slit in the back. Noticing that she would get dress coded she put her jacket over it so it could not be dress coded anymore, but a teacher saw, took her to the office, and made her take off her jacket so she would get dress coded by the principal. Even though she took care of the problem before the teacher got her in trouble, the teacher still dress coded her. If that is not an infringement on rights, then i don’t know what is.  She could have filed a lawsuit and probably would have won it. “School districts may win some of these lawsuits and fights—but they'll probably lose most of them. Here's why: In 1969, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Tinker v. Des Moines Independent School District that students don't "shed their constitutional rights to freedom of speech and expression at the schoolhouse gate," (Haynes, web).


School dress codes are said to be followed to the exactly to the line, but schools are twisting it to their liking. In the article “ When in Doubt Don’t Wear It,” Brittany Hales learned the hard way that school’s don’t always follow dress codes to the fine line. “She is a model student," said Judy Hales, Brittany's mother. "Not once had she been in trouble before this." Judy said she and Brittany stayed up late Sunday planning her daughter's outfit for the next day.


"We measured the skirt four different times to make sure it was within the district's policy," she said. The policy states that skirts should be "no higher than three (3) inches above the top of the knee." Judy felt confident Brittany's skirt was in line with the district's policy when she sent her off to school Monday. But at 9 that morning, Judy received a call from Springfield's assistant principal, Pattie Barnes, letting her know Brittany had been suspended for three days. "I just don't understand how something like this could happen when we were so careful," (Hales, web). Judy Hales had measured her daughter’s skirt four times, and saw it fit in the school dress code. She knew that her daughter could not get in trouble, but the school did not like her dress so she got in trouble for doing nothing. You would suspension would be a big enough punishment already, but they planned on punishing Brittany a little more by taking away her opportunity to play volleyball. "I've been playing volleyball all summer to get ready for this school year," Brittany said. "But now, I won't even be able to try out." The seventh-grader had her sights set on playing volleyball for Springfield this year, but because of her suspension, she no longer has the option of trying out. "The only sure way to avoid a dress code violation is to live by this motto," Finch said. "When in doubt, don't wear it." ( Hales, web). In summary, Brittany was very careful about making sure that her outfit fit in the school dress code, but the school didn’t like her dress so the punished her against what the school dress code says. The last thing Brittany Hales says is, “ When in doubt don’t wear it.” This shows that the school has made it so students fear the dress codes and what the officials will do to them if they “break” the dress code. School is making the dress code even more unfair than it already is.


Some people may argue that the school dress code is good, and teachers and officials claim they need it to make it a safe school. “the dress code was created to "help reduce violent gang activity, ease tensions between students who fight over attire, aid school officials in identifying campus intruders, and promote student safety in general," (Daniels, web). It seems like a noble cause in the long run, but that is not really what they want to use it for. They want to use it for making sure students don’t express themselves through their clothing because they don’t like it. I have several examples of this. The whole article of “ When In Doubt Don’t Wear It” and the tinker incident. Another incident involves a kid named Elliot Chambers. “Consider the case of Elliot Chambers, the Minnesota student who was told that he couldn't wear a shirt with the message "Straight Pride." The school claimed that the shirt offended some students and pointed out that there had been several hostile incidents involving gay students.


But Chambers sued, saying that the ban on his shirt was unconstitutional. A federal district court agreed. Applying Tinker, the judge found that Chambers' shirt was not directly connected to the disruptions claimed by the school,” (Haynes, web). The school tried to get rid of Chamber’s shirt because they did not like it. This event shows how fair the dress code really is.


You have seen evidence that the school dress code is ruining student rights. You have seen that they follow the dress codes according to their own standards instead of following the real school dress codes. You might think there is nothing you can do, but you can do something. Call your school officials and tell them about the dress code unfairness and how you want to have a less strict and fair dress code. Take action and do something. You might just free your school from the monster we call dress codes.






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