School Dress Code Policies: Are Girls Singled Out?


Take a look at a news story where some feel a school dress code is discriminatory to female students. Others feel you should follow the school's rules.

A short while back, we saw a news story that we posted on the Our Family World Facebook page that involved a teenage student who is given a detention in a New Brunswick school because she wore a dress that exposed her back and shoulders. The school deemed her attire inappropriate, saying that she could potentially be distracting the young men at her school. Here is the dress she wore:

Take a look at a news story where some feel a school dress code is discriminatory to female students. Others feel you should follow the school's rules.


The school dress code prohibits clothing that is excessively revealing including:

  • Shirts that expose shoulders, back and midriff.
  • Short shorts, skirts, and dresses
  • Low cut tops and blouses
  • Muscle shirts

The student wrote a letter to the school saying that the treatment was unfair. She states if young men are distracted by her shoulders they should be sent home and practice self-control. The school then suspended her. Students at other schools are speaking up also, as they feel that these dress codes are unfairly targeting female students.

Related: Do Public School Uniforms Prevent Bullying

PROS: Students Should Wear Appropriate Attire In A School Environment

Supporters of the school policy feel that the dress code policy is there to protect the school environment as a place of learning. The school states that the policy is not intended to be sexist. The superintendent stated they are willing to work with students who feel the rules are unfair. Currently, the rules are as stands.

Some feel that the rules are in place to help maintain order and that students should follow those rules. There are many instances in life after high school where we are required as adults to adhere to a certain dress code. The school’s dress code is specifically there to protect students, promote safety and minimize distraction. According to the American Civil Liberties of Vermont, a dress code or public school uniform case has not yet been heard by the Supreme Courts in the US. According to the article, scholars feel it is unlikely a school’s dress code policy would be overturned. Cases that have gone before lower courts regarding dress codes and public uniforms have generally sided with the schools.

Our Facebook page is lighting up with some parents who are siding with the school in enforcing dress code policies. Check out one of the comments:

Should have followed the rules facebook comment



CONS: Dress Codes Are Unfairly Targeting Female Students

Some students and parents are against the current dress code policy. They feel the school is unfairly targeting female students and that the policy is sexist. Female students spoke out with a rally and feel that the policy is promoting what they refer to as a “rape culture.” If you are not familiar with this term, the Women Against Violence Against Women Rape Crisis Centre includes a detailed description on their website. This concept refers to when a society normalizes sexual violence and male aggression towards women. This can include everything from sexual remarks to the act of rape itself.

Related: Setup for Rape: My Personal Stories About Bullying

Another way to describe this concept is that the school is creating a culture where it is teaching young girls “not to get raped” but not teaching boys “not to rape.” This concept can be applied to this situation, as the principal told the student that the clothing was not appropriate because it would distract young males in her school. Supporters feel that sexual aggression is normalized through enforcement of this policy.

Take a look at the comment made by one of our Facebook followers who agrees:

boys not reprimanded for sexual agresstion facebook comment

Readers, what do you think? Should the dress codes remain as they are? Are school dress codes unfairly targeting female students? Do these policies create a “rape culture?” Let us know in the comments!

(Image Credit: Jenny S)

23 thoughts on “School Dress Code Policies: Are Girls Singled Out?”

  1. Kayla Crockett

    I got dirt on my back while playing a game at school, and everyone kept calling it poop. I got very annoyed with that so I tied my shirt up a little bit. If I pulled my shirt down and my shorts up, there was no skin showing. I went to get my backpack from my locker, and when I came back, my teacher told me to untie my shirt. I did, obviously, but the annoying part was this. There was a boy wearing a shirt that he tied up, and the teachers didn’t say anything to him! His was farther up than mine, and not one person cared! I personally think it is more distracting when a boy wears short-shorts or a crop top shirt. And like I told my friend “Girls have stomachs, girls have legs, girls have shoulders. But so do boys! And it’s not our fault that boys “get distracted” when girls are wearing short-shorts or a crop top. It basically assumes that all boys are pigs! It’s really not our fault that we have legs, stomachs, and shoulders!” But if boys can show their shoulders, legs, and stomachs, girls should be able to do the same thing. Like someone from my class says “equal rights, equal fights.”

  2. It’s one thing to have a dress code, and state you cannot wear X,Y and X. It’s another thing to say that a female can’t wear something because it is distracting to males. Now THAT is just wrong in my book.

  3. This is a very heated topic! I went to school that required us to wear uniforms and I actually think it was a positive thing. Nowadays, I think it’s best (with bullying issues) to have students wear uniforms.

    1. I LOVE the idea of school uniforms on so many different levels. My nephew just switched to a school that requires uniforms – he actually feels ‘grown up’ and I swear it’s helping to mature him. At his old school, the materialism some of the kids exhibited there was a sad distraction. It’s ‘I got this’, and ‘what brand is that,’ and even if it is a so-called cool brand, it’s then, ‘well your stuff is fake.’ Now that is a distraction, and adds a great deal of fuel to the bullying fire.

  4. Honestly I think girls are singled out way more than guys. My school had a super strict dress code and I am tall so pretty much the only thing I could wear was jeans and a t-shirt, tucked in and with a belt on!! And with close toes shoes!! It was a nightmare.

  5. I am the girl who has been told to change many times, and the friend of others who have been made to turn shirts inside out. Most of my frustration comes from students being in trouble half way through the day, don’t let them in if you don’t like it they shouldn’t be going around in it and in no way do I support school uniforms.

  6. If the student will follow the rules that are imposed by the school, this problem won’t be an issue. As a former educator, it is important that the said policy are implemented. As a parent, I will be the first to tell my kids if theyir clothes are not very appropriate in school setting or out in public.

  7. I do find some of the things i see kids wearing at school to be a little surprising sometimes. I like schools that wear a uniform. That way everyone looks the same.

  8. I think the schools gave to enforce the dress codes. They were made for a reason and the girl probably signed a form that said she would conform to the dress code. She clearly broke the rules. In my opinion, she could have added a lightweight sweater that kept her shoulders covered throughout the day or she could have picked different clothes.

  9. I’m a former principal and we always had a dress code. It was the same for both sexes. The dress code was put in place so that all students were on equal footing. They all dressed the same and were not judged by what they wore. If a policy is in place, everyone should abide by that policy.

  10. I think this is a big reason I like school that have a uniform. I’m really torn because I feel girls should be able to wear whatever they want without being judged but at the same time dressing a certain way sends different signals. I would want my daughter to respect her body. Be a lady. Showing skin is appropriate in certain settings.

  11. I worked for a College with a very strict dress code policy that sadly was constantly having to be enforced but it wasn’t for a long innocuous dress like this, it would be students that showed up with mini skirts or short shorts. The school also had no ‘baggy pants’ for the male students and enforced both dress codes equally. I don’t think this young lady is dressed very revealing, but if her school doesn’t allow ‘backs’ to show then I guess she should have put a cardigan over it. Detention for a maxi dress seems kind of harsh!

  12. I actually shared this image on my page a while ago and I received mixed opinions. Some people think she was absolutely okay. I think the should cover up a little bit

  13. Because why would guys wear backless clothes? Anyway, I am used to these rules as a kid so I am for it! Revealing clothes can be a distraction. LOL. You can always wear one right after school!

  14. My kids go to Catholic school so they have to wear uniforms. But the public schools in my city all have uniforms as well. It really seems to keep everyone from having an issue, whether it be expensive shoes or revealing clothes.

  15. I understand both sides of this issue, but tend to side with the student. After all, I don’t feel that girls are responsible for boys’ response to what girls wear. Then again, the school can’t change the culture in which girls are overly sexualized by suspending every boy who looks at a girl. What is worse is that this young woman was suspended for writing a letter of protest. Whatever happened to encuraging students to think critically.

  16. This is actually an issue about which I feel very strongly. I really do feel like school dress code policies are in place for a reason, and I have yet to read one that actually says that their policies are to keep boys from being distracted by girls. Our high school dress code is the same for both boys and girls. My sons are not allowed to wear hats or hoodies, but then, neither are the girls. I think encouraging girls to play the victim actually contributes to rape culture, and not the opposite.

  17. I agree with other comments on here. I think uniforms are the best way to avoid something like this. I have only boys and they wear uniforms. It really keeps these kinds of debates down.

  18. Robin Rue (@massholemommy)

    I have all boys, so I don’t honestly know much about girls and how they are treated. I think if they are showing too much skin, they need to go change. It’s unbecoming.

  19. I am not taking sides with any party here. Let me just give my thoughts. I think it would be best to require students (male or female) to come in school uniforms. That way, there is no dress code, just a standard school shirt and pants or skirt. Again, just my thoughts.

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