“Disproportionately Affected”: USA Today Speaks to Professor Courtney Mauldin About School Dress Codes

Sexist, racist and classist: Why the feds are getting involved in school dress codes

(USA Today | Jan. 23, 2023) Students, advocates, researchers and now a congressional watchdog agency are urging public schools to rethink their dress codes, which some argue are sexist, racist and classist, foster a culture of inequity and can interfere with some kids’ access to an education.

These issues were at the center of protests against local dress codes nationwide, including in Cobb County, Georgia; Longview, Washington; and Sharon Hill, Pennsylvania, when schools returned to in-person learning following pandemic-related closures.

One high-profile case at a North Carolina charter school – where girls were once required to wear skirts, skorts, or dresses until a federal court intervened – could be heard by the U.S. Supreme Court …

… Experts urge schools where rigid dress codes remain in place to look closely at how policies are helping or harming students.

“I think that the messaging of some dress code policies has been that the clothing or hair that is deemed ‘inappropriate’ serves as a distraction to learning,” said Courtney Mauldin, an assistant professor in the Department of Teaching and Leadership at Syracuse University. “However, for the racial, gendered and cultural groups that are disproportionately affected by these policies, their instructional time is what suffers.”

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