Parents Against Dress Codes: 20 Ways Parents (And Their Kids) Fought Back

Dress codes are often designed to maintain order at schools. They may include using uniforms or only banning specific logos because of negative or dangerous affiliations. They can even keep students safe, specifically in places that are prone to natural disasters. (No open-toed shoes every kept a student safe while getting to a shelter, right?)

But dress codes can also be flawed and biased. Nowadays, some students may explore gender in ways that are different from the past. Trans students, for example, may want to dress in a way that better fits their needs. In this case, dress codes may affect them by not allowing them to style their hair or wear certain age-appropriate outfits just because they are not in accordance with binary notions of gender.

Girls are also often the targets of dress codes. Some parents may take the time to buy outfits they deem appropriate for young girls to wear. Times have changed, and many parents support their children's efforts to express their chosen identity or feel comfortable in their own skin. Parents of African-American children have also been affected, as some schools may punish children for their hairstyles.

Here are stories of parents who have supported their children's clothing decisions, or who have challenged school dress codes on their own.

Continue scrolling to keep reading

Click the button below to start this article in quick view

Start Now

20 #IAmNotADistraction

Via Twitter

In 2016, students at Buchanan High School in Clovis, CA protested a dress code they felt violates gender rights. Trustees didn't revise rules that specifically mentioned dresses and skirts were for girls, and wouldn't allow long hair or earrings for boys.

In response, students protested by wearing clothes that don't adhere to gender standards for one day. But this isn't the only protest against such impositions. A similar protest in New Jersey resulted in the #IAmNotADistraction hashtag, according to CNN. Niv Miyasato is the father of one of the founders of this hashtag, and he's written a letter to his daughter's principal in support of the students' protest.

19 An older sister helped her sibling publish an opinion piece

Parents aren't the only ones supporting teenagers who want to call out dress codes. Occasionally, older siblings also do what they can. According to Gawker, a 17-year-old named Clare was kicked out of her prom in Richmond, VA after some male chaperones said she was causing them to have "impure thoughts."

In response, her Clare's sister published a response on her personal blog. Clare said her dress was up to standards. She also demanded that she receive a refund for her payment to prom night, as the dance committee promised.

18 NYT questioned gender-based dress codes

Though it may seem like the discussion about dress codes is new, the New York Times published an article about this debate in 2009. The article pointed out that there were grey areas around what non-gender conforming teenagers could wear.

Can a girl wear a suit to a dance? Can a boy wear a skirt as long as it's the right length? This discussion became more heated when a girl in Mississippi had her picture removed from a yearbook because she wore a tuxedo in the photo. NYT also mentioned some blogs by parents that are trying to make schools a more accommodating place for gender-fluid children, such as Accepting Dad.

17 Some took their grievances to the Supreme Court

Via Vox

The Christian Science Monitor covered a story about a Supreme Court case that dealt with dress codes. It turns out a Texas student took a t-shirt to school that said "Freedom of Speech" and had the First Amendment's text on the back.

The student's name was Paul Palmer and his case began in 2007. When the school's administration called the parents asking them to bring a different t-shirt for him, they brought one that said "John Edwards for President '08." They refused this shirt as well, causing the Palmer family to sue. Though they lost, the case shows some parents will support their kids about this issue all the way!

16 If school won't listen, the media might

Mom of two girls, Karen Green, spoke to CTV News about how she feels dress codes often target young girls. She feels that consistently telling girls to cover themselves up sends a message that they should be ashamed of their changing bodies.

Plus, some parents find dress codes unfair to boys as well. Making sure girls are the ones who must cover themselves up send the message that boys can't control themselves. Patti Bacchus, who was also interviewed for that article, says that boys need to be raised to respect girls instead of sexualizing them.

15 Band-Aids over a certain area?

Though it's hard to agree on dress codes, we can admit that not every school district is extreme about their enforcement. Still, some of them may enforce rules even if a student is breaking the rules for a good reason.

Lizzy Martinez was pulled out of class at her Florida high school for wearing a loose shirt, according to Vox. Martinez had chosen not to wear a bra to school that day because of a sunburn. When she told the nurse why she was asked to put Band-Aids over her nipple area. Martinez tweeted about the incident and her mother supported her by bringing her home early after her earlier embarrassment.

14 One school forced a child to put duct tape on herself

Via Insider

Ever since rock and roll became a trend, students have tried to rebel by wearing ripped jeans. Though not all parents and adults accept it, they don't often make a large fuss.

One Maryland student who wore ripped jeans to class was allegedly made to duct tape any patches that showed her legs, according to Insider. The student was in junior high and her mother, Nicole Williams, feels the school should have called and asked her to bring a change of clothes. After this event got attention from the media, the school's interim principal apologized for how this matter was handled.

13 Behold an older sister's rant


High school student Macy Edgerly from Orange County, TX was sent home for wearing the outfit pictured above. Outraged, her older sister Erica posted a picture of the offending outfit and decried dress codes that make women and girls feel insecure.

The pictures of Macy's outfit caught the attention of various blogs and media, such as POPSUGAR. Clearly, everyone has the right to their own opinion, but Macy's older sister brings up the very valid point that this outfit is quite modest.

12 The internet grilled a school that gave a little boy a hard time

6-year-old student CJ Stanley Jr. gained national attention after his Florida school kept him from entering the building because of his hair. According to CJ's father, his son began wearing dreadlocks at the age of four.

The incident got the attention of various media across the country. An exposé published at Washington Post mentioned that CJ wore dreadlocks throughout kindergarten. CJ's mother wanted him to attend a smaller school and transferred him. Later, CJ's parents admitted that they didn't read the guidebook before sending him to school. However, many onlookers were still angry that the school doesn't allow dreadlocks.

11 Some parents showed proof of bias


Aaron and Colleen Cook knew they may face certain issues when they adopted their twin daughters, May and Deanna. The girls are African-American and their parents are white. Mya and Deanna had hair extensions and didn't remove them once school administrators requested this of them, according to NPR.

The Cooks were supportive of their daughters' choice and even went so far as looking through yearbooks and pointing out other girls who have extensions and weren't punished. They even called organizations such as the ACLU and NAACP in response to the school's enforcement of this policy on black girls. The school had to stop enforcing this rule for the remainder of the school year.

10 This 7th grade got 7 warnings in one year so...

Via Twitter

Hailly-Jean Escamilla and her parents decided to fight back after she was reprimanded for dress code violations seven times. Her father, Roel, decided to support his daughter by discussing the school's dress code in local news.

Though it seems Escamilla and her family did their best to buy appropriate clothing for her, Roel felt the school wasn't specific enough about prohibited items of clothing. At one point, Escamilla got in trouble at school because the principal said her dress had "too much movement." Escamilla's father even pointed out photos of teachers and administrators who were wearing sleeveless shirts, and he said the school shouldn't punish his daughter for wearing similar clothes.

9 Suspension because of a bra strap?


Yes, dress codes can help students learn how to dress properly for work and other settings. However, Hickory Ridge High School almost made honor roll student Summer lose her scholarships because of a dress code violation that received media attention.

Summer even borrowed a jacket in order to cover herself up but was suspended for 10 days anyway. The school also prevented summer from attending activities for seniors and even banned her from attending her graduation ceremony. In fact, the school's security guard almost put handcuffs on Summer according to AOL. Summer's mom called the school just in time to intervene.

8 One parent invited the principal on a shopping trip

Via Today

After receiving several notes from the school's principal about her daughter's dress code violations, one parent wrote the principal an open letter. She mentioned some of the challenges of purchasing clothes for her daughter. For example, the student in question was 5'7", but 13 years old.

Additional challenges mentioned are that her daughter has long arms and legs, and isn't really into typically "girly" items of clothing. The letter, published on Today, ends with the concerned parent asking the principal to go shopping with the daughter in order to prevent further issues with the school's dress code.

7 Only guys can show skin

Via Instagram

San Antonio, TX high school student Sophia Abuabara got in trouble because of a dress that was deemed inappropriate. The school's principal asked her mother to bring a change of clothes for Sophia, but she took a picture of a young man who was also baring quite the amount of skin.

Sophia's mother, Rosey, responded by calling out the school's inconsistent enforcement of dress code standards on Instagram. According to Refinery29, even the boy in the picture agreed that the school applies dress code rules arbitrarily.

6 Behold a mother's petition

Via Virily

St. Thomas More was the subject of a mother's online petition because of a rule that required girls to wear pantyhose under their skirts. Laura Schmitt, a concerned mother, and her supporters wondered why the school would want to implement this rule.

According to The News-Gazette, parents brought up the fact that other schools allow girls to wear long socks instead of nylons. Parents were also concerned about the cost of having to purchase new pantyhose, as they're subject to consistent tearing.

5 Leggings ok only for the thin

Last year, a South Carolina principal got publicity for exactly the wrong reasons. The school's principal spoke to students at two assemblies about how only girls who are a size 0 or 2 can wear leggings, according to Insider.

Students and parents received attention from their local news station, WCBD-TV. One parent even wrote about this incident for Scary Mommy. The school's principal, Heather Taylor, eventually agreed to apologize to students. She even made herself available to any parent that wished to discuss the issue—but not before sparking a conversation about body-shaming.

4 A 6th grader was told she looks like she's going clubbing

Via Facebook

One mom, Suzie Webster, took to social media to vent about a time when her daughter, Reese, was reprimanded for her clothing. A teacher told the sixth-grader that her skirt made her look like she "could be clubbing," according to Insider.

Reese's mother even spoke about how she and her daughter worked hard to find clothes that abide by her school's dress code. Ms. Webster even mentioned that Reese apologized for her clothing and felt ashamed of herself after this encounter.

3 Some parents voted for a gender-neutral uniform

In some enlightening news, the Japan Times reports that many schools across the country are implementing gender-neutral uniforms. For example, Kashiwanoha Junior High School allows children to choose between trousers, blazers, ties, or skirts, regardless of the child's gender.

Many schools cited that they want LGBT students to feel more comfortable about what they wear. Parents also supported the changes in dress codes because they feel girls should be able to wear trousers during the cold winter months. This is a great example for schools all over the world!

2 Boys supported their female classmates

Via Insider

Parents are a major source of support for many children who are penalized because of what they wear. However, teen boys in Hollister, California took matters into their own hands in order to support their female classmates. According to Insider, students organized a protest in which many students wore off-the-shoulder tops.

The students' protest was actually successful, and the school's principal even agreed to meet with them. He even mentioned that he'll look at enforcing the dress code more consistently in the future.

1 Parents got angry at the modesty poncho


A Catholic high school in Dearborn, Michigan threatened to make girls wear a "modesty poncho" during prom. Parents and students became angry at this latest attempt to define appropriate attire according to Racked. The school ended up having to send parents a letter informing them that the ponchos won't be passed out.

Students also told FOX 2 Detroit that they felt this move was too premature. After all, it was as if the school was already expecting students to dress inappropriately.

Sources: twitter.com, cnn.com, hannahettinger.com, gawker.com, nytimes.com, acceptingdad.com, vox.com, csmonitor.com, howstuffworks.com, ctvnews.ca, stayathomemum.com.au, vox.com, thisisinsider.com, popsugar.com, pulptastic.com, washingtonpost.com, npr.org, twitter.com, actionnewsjax.com, wilx.com, aol.com, today.com, instagram.com, refinery29.com, virily.com, news-gazette.com, bellavivadance.com, thisisinsider.com, scarymommy.com, thisisinsider.com, facebook.com, japantimes.co.jp, gaystarnews.com, thisisinsider.com, cnn.com, racked.com, fox2detroit.com

More in Parenting