When it comes to school dress codes, many educational institutions police girls' attire. Case in point: the San Antonio honors student who was sent home for wearing a long-sleeved dress earlier this year. But Evanston Township High School in Illinois has taken a powerful stand against shaming girls for the way they dress.
The school has instituted an anti-body shaming dress code that looks quite different from the rules that many of us followed during our high school years. The dress code section of Evanston Township's handbook opens with a mission statement that has us cheering.
"To ensure effective and equitable enforcement of this dress code, school staff shall enforce the dress code consistently and in a manner that does not reinforce or increase marginalization or oppression of any group based on race, sex, gender identity, gender expression, sexual orientation, ethnicity, religion, cultural observance, household income or body type/size," it reads.
The policy goes on to list body parts that students must cover at all times: genitals, buttocks, breasts, and nipples. "Cleavage should not have coverage requirements," the policy notes.
The list of acceptable clothing includes a number of items that are frequently banned in schools, such as ripped jeans, tight pants, tank tops, halter tops, and religious headwear. As for unacceptable apparel? Clothing with hate speech, profanity, pornography, and violent language or images. The school has also banned attire that contains "images or language that create a hostile or intimidating environment based on any protected class or consistently marginalized groups."
Schools frequently defend their dress codes by claiming that, when girls aren't adequately "covered up," it's a distraction to their male classmates. This damaging claim perpetuates rape culture and reinforces the myth that it's up to women and girls to prevent men from committing sexual violence.
Evanston Township directly addresses this issue on its website. "All students and staff should understand that they are responsible for managing their own personal 'distractions' without regulating individual students' clothing/self expression."