Opinion: How dress codes affect students

With the San Dieguito Academy now enforcing the dress code, it is important to acknowledge how dress codes affect students.


Segment of SDA’s dress code.

While dress codes are supposed to foster a better learning environment, it often forces students to waste time being checked for rule conformance, taken out of class, and serving detention or suspension.

Those who are dress-coded may feel anxious about their physique or the things they choose to wear as a result. The decision over whether or not they should be dress-coded frequently leads to sexualization, which disproportionately affects girls with more mature bodies.

Educators and sociologists have also claimed that dress regulations based on such logic reinforce a greater societal expectation: that women are the ones who need to protect themselves from unwanted attention, and that those wearing seductive apparel are “asking for” it (“it” including sexual assault and harassment).

Those who oppose tight dress regulations argue that punishing pupils for their clothing is a sort of shame that can lead to body image problems.

Dress rules are a technique of regulating what young women wear. Clothing items that expose the shoulders or upper legs are frequently prohibited. It is sexualizing young girls to police what females wear to school.

Shorts, skirts, tank tops, and crop tops are examples of clothing items that are widely seen to be distracting in the classroom. The issue with these limits is that they are sexist toward female students because these are mostly women’s clothes.

An anonymous SDA student said that she was reported by one of her female teachers for a dress code violation. She was taken out of class and sent to the office to be told to “cover up” by a male faculty member. She says this made her feel extremely uncomfortable and anxious, causing her to go home after the incident.

Dress regulations, which mostly affect high school girls, carry the message that girls’ bodies are a distraction and are to blame for boys’ lack of focus. Dress code policies disproportionately affect girls. Boys aren’t usually bound to dress code restrictions.

If schools are so worried about girls’ bodies being a distraction, they should focus more on teaching those distracted that this should not be the case.

Additionally, it is often hard for students, especially those who identify as female, to find clothes they like that fit school dress codes. 

Students wear clothes that make them happy and comfortable. It is a form of self-expression for many, so that being taken away is a shame. While SDA administration says that this dress code was decided upon by former students, they have not given current students the chance to offer their input. While dress code enforcement may be inevitable, I think it is fair for students to have a conversation with administrators about what it includes and how it is enforced.

I would argue that as long as what they are wearing is considered comfortable and appropriate by the wearer, their parent or guardian, and the law, they should be able to wear it.