A Virginia public school district has revised its dress code policy to reflect a more gender-neutral stance. The district is one of the first to do so nationwide, and hopefully, others will follow suit.
Historically, dress codes have targeted female students. With regulations like no belly shirts, tube tops, or mini-skirts, dress codes clearly referred to girls as the potential rule-breakers. Parents have taken issue with the sexist language and unequal treatment of girls promoted by dress codes for some time. Many have spoken up, and we are finally starting to see change.
Roanoke County Public School's newly revised dress code requires all students, regardless of gender, to wear clothing that covers their bodies from armpit to armpit and down the thigh three to four inches. Tops are required to have straps.
The newly revised dress code removed any gender-specific language. The former code had specifically referred to cleavage, midriffs, skirt length, and spaghetti straps. The updates simplified the code by focusing on what parts of the body to cover instead of mentioning types of clothing.
Hate speech, whether explicit or implied is banned from clothing. The district ensures students that they have the right to express themselves through their dress, but must also show respect by dressing appropriately.
The dress code revisions were not spontaneous; the district responded to its parents' feedback. One mother in particular, Jeeanie Keen, set the conversation in motion after her daughter was asked to change out of her athletic shorts. Other girls in Keen's daughter's sixth-grade class faced the same consequences.
Keen read the code and noticed that it targeted female students. She also was not sure how inappropriate the girls' athletic shorts really were, and wondered if boys in similar shorts would be coded. She brought her concerns to her school board representative and provided them with an example of a gender-neutral dress code from another district. Keen's speaking up led eventually to the district's newly adopted code.