One small, shy child changed my school’s dress code

Sometimes, students can help administrators gain new perspective

Oregon NOW does an excellent job of maintaining that a dress code is necessary, but it must be fair and sensible. Something students see value and take part in. Safety, non-offensive wording, and gender-neutral descriptions of length, size, etc., are the prerequisite to a gender-neutral dress code.

This summer, after my research, I revised our dress code, determined to remove any gender-specific items and foster a fair and equitable dress code. I involved people in the school community and advised my superintendent. Today, the new dress code begins immediately with this:

Hammarskjold Middle School encourages all students to be able to dress comfortably for school without fear of or disruption to their learning process.

The importance here is that the learning process will not be disrupted, a key tenant of Oregon Now. Dress code should not be on par with fighting or other serious infractions. Additionally, the wording about size and space now reads as:

Basic Principle: Certain body parts must be covered for all students.

Our dress code goes on to address safety, offensive language, and exposure of undergarments—all in gender-neutral language. Never again is a description geared specifically to female attire, and the emphasis is on safety as well as a respectful, non-offensive standard.

I grew up with three brothers, surrounded by testosterone. I have since been blessed with two daughters, now 11 and 14 years old. My daughters have brought this kind of sensitivity to me, and not just about dress code. Indeed, dress code is an extension of a broader issue that has gained national attention. My eyes have widened as a teacher, administrator, and father of girls about just what fair treatment stands for with female students.

I was influenced by what one small, shy child did, and thanks to children like her, my school’s dress code is better worded and managed for all of my students. If you are wondering about your own dress code, check out the Oregon NOW Model Student Dress Code. Then, think about the influence you can have with some subtle, yet significant, shifts to the language in your own dress code.

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