If you are or were a young girl or woman in the American public school system, it's very likely you were sent home or removed from class at least once for "violating the dress code." And it probably wasn't because you really were dressed inappropriately for class — it was probably due to a silly technicality having to do with a tank top or pair of shorts.
Meanwhile, the boys in public schools are usually just fine as long as they don't show up to class without a shirt or pants. There's clear indication in most public schools' dress codes that they still somehow consider totally innocent body parts like shoulders to be too distracting — ahem, sexually intriguing — when displayed by girls.
One refreshingly progressive school district in Virginia just decided to level that playing field for good, and we really hope it becomes a trend.
Roanoke County Public Schools is about to change the way schools decide their dress codes.
Roanoke CPS is a county-wide school district in Virginia run by local government that hosts six high schools, six middle schools, and a whopping 17 elementary schools. Among all those schools, it holds just over 14,000 students. It's a pretty big school district, so this is kind of a big deal.
It just introduced a gender-neutral dress code, seen on the diagram below.
Accouncement of the board's approval for this dress code was made on July 11, and it's been receiving never-ending praise ever since. As you can see by the illustration, the rules are rather simple: No matter your gender, you simply need to wear tops that have straps, cover your entire midsection, and ensure shorts and skirt are least three or four inches below the crotch area.
For further explanation, watch this news clip about the newly minted rules.
According to this video, the school district wanted to actively prevent girls from being targeted by dress code rules, hence why it created the new code. A surprising amount, 59%, of parents are actually in favor of the new rules.
I can't even BEGIN to lay out all the reasons this is so wonderful and important.
Take it from a tall girl who couldn't find a "fingertip-length" skirt or dress to save her life in high school, girls are removed from class far more frequently than necessary, and it can lead to girls having an unfair educational disadvantage. Dress codes banning girls from baring shoulders and legs also suggests to all students that girls' bodies are inherently sexual and that it's their fault if boys or men find them alluring.
All of this combined can make young girls feel incredibly insecure both physically and intellectually.
So, uh, when can we make gender-neutral dress codes a federal requirement in public schools?
No matter how lax or strict a school wants their rules of dress to be, it should still make said rules gender-neutral, otherwise girls and LGBTQ youth are going to continue to be targeted simply for having bodies and wearing clothes.
Want to enact a rule that students can only wear snowsuits at all times? Sure, do it — just make sure everyone is treated equally. Keep doing you, Virginia.