ACLU of Nebraska: School dress codes failing students

(WALB)
Published: Sep. 28, 2022 at 2:15 PM CDT
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - ACLU of Nebraska issued a report card Wednesday evaluating the dress codes of Nebraska’s 15 largest school districts — and the grades weren’t good.

Six of the 15 school districts evaluated are located in the Omaha-metro, with two more just outside. ACLU analyzed the dress-code policies — including district-wide, grade-level, and individual school policies — of Omaha Public Schools, Lincoln Public Schools, Millard Public Schools, Papillion La Vista Community Schools, Elkhorn Public Schools, Grand Island Public Schools, Bellevue Public Schools, Westside Community Schools, Kearney Public Schools, Gretna Public Schools, Fremont Public Schools, Norfolk Public Schools, Columbus Public Schools, North Platte Public Schools, South Sioux City Community Schools.

Across five categories, the schools were given three Ds and two Fs.

According to the ACLU report, the dress codes were found to be “rooted in stereotypes,” aimed more intentionally at girls, and “often enforced disproportionately against Black girls and other students of color.”

“Gendered language in dress codes and unequal enforcement subject girls to discipline, humiliation and anxiety; force them to miss class time; and damage their sense of belonging in school. Gendered dress codes also invite biased enforcement against nonbinary, transgender and gender-nonconforming students.”

ACLU of Nebraska report on Nebraska school dress codes

In particular, the policies failed in clarity and in how violations were handled, noting examples of some that included expulsion as a means of punishment and contained vague language allowing for subjective interpretation.

The report also included an example of a positive dress code model drafted by the Oregon National Organization for Women. That policy emphasizes sticking to the basics while allowing comfortable clothing that helps maintain a safe and equitable learning environment. It also notes that removing restrictive policies allows teachers to focus on educating students rather than policing them.