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Distinguished Professor Robson on School Dress Codes in the Guardian

September 25, 2014

Distinguished Professor Ruthann Robson commented on the spate of revolts against school dress codes in a recent Guardian article “Students protest ‘slut shaming’ high school dress codes with mass walkouts.”

Teenagers around the country have voiced their disagreement with recent applications of the dress code in New York, Utah, Florida, Oklahoma and other states. The protests have spawned a hashtag, #iammorethanadistraction.

Professor Robson approves of this trend and believes that mass walkouts showed that dress codes related to public policy and were not just confined to individual students and schools. She said:

“Such resistance points out the larger structural issues. There is a problem here of state power getting confused with matters of good taste. There were laws against indecent exposure but some schools went further by decreeing what was and was not good taste. Just because someone wears something that we consider bad taste doesn’t mean the state should mandate.”

Current dress code rules often try to regulate how much skin girls reveal and often ban wearing figure-hugging attire such as leggings or yoga pants. Punishments for these types of dress code violations most often affect girls. Some commentators have expressed concern that this might be violating Title IX, the federal law that ensures non-discrimination in educational environments.

In New York City, at Tottenville High School in Staten Island administrators intercepted more than a hundred students, most of them girls and ordered them to cover up or to summon parents with additional clothing. This incident occurred  on one of the hottest days of the year earlier this month.

Many of the reprimanded students returned to school in crop tops and tank tops, deliberately breaking the code in protest. A leaflet appeared urging staff not to humiliate girls for wearing shorts. Another proclaimed, “It’s hot outside. Instead of shaming girls for their bodies, teach boys that girls are not sexual objects.”

Read the Guardian article

Dressing Constitutionally

Dressing Constitutionally

Prof. Robson is an expert on constitutional law and sexuality issues and is the co-editor of the Constitutional Law Professors Blog. Her latest book is Dressing Constitutionally: Hierarchy, Sexuality, and Democracy From Our Hairstyles to Our Shoes.



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