Florida school districts target sexism in student dress codes |
LARGO, Fla. — For more than a year, school district officials in Pinellas County, Florida have heard complaints that their student dress code unfairly targets girls.
“I’ve caught a lot of interesting static from parents of girl students who think the dress code is more leaning towards them,” school board member Bill Dudley said during a workshop last week.
That’s about to change.
Following a statewide trend, the District of Pinellas is set to revamp its policy to make it more gender-neutral. It plans to remove language that talks about specific clothing, which is typically worn by girls, and instead establish simple guidelines that apply to all students equally.
For example, instead of stating that bra straps must not be exposed, the rule would instead state that “no undergarments” may be visible.
Area Superintendent Dwayne Hinds said the initiative does not change specifics of the dress code, such as rules about holes in jeans having to be below thigh level. The big change comes from the language, he said.
The district has heard of the need from several groups, he said, including a student-run women’s rights organization.
“We used that feedback to guide our thinking, which led us to take a different look at the issue,” Hinds said, noting that the district hadn’t considered the idea as critically last year. that he does now.
At first, many critics suggested the neighborhood scrap its dress code, he added. This time there was a more nuanced approach.
As the district prepared its recommendation, it looked to other Florida districts that have taken similar action.
The Pasco County School Board, for example, began discussing such a decision in May.
The St. Johns County School District adopted a more neutral dress code in August. Around the same time, college students in Duval and Martin counties began protesting their dress codes, calling them sexist.
So far, Hinds said, feedback on Pinellas’ wording has been “very, very positive.”
It is expected to go to the school board for review later this spring, along with other changes to the code of conduct.
Student attendance is another area council members said they want to focus on. Several members said they heard from teachers about problems, particularly in secondary schools, with students not attending all classes every day.
The problem, they said, puts pressure on educators trying to maintain graduation rates for students who don’t come to learn.
“I don’t know what the solution is,” said board member Carol Cook.
The board asked the administration to provide some recommendations on how to handle the situation, including reviewing the use of virtual classrooms and exam waivers, among other ideas.
“We need to make it very clear to students that COVID is over and we need to bring back the guidelines” that schools relaxed at the height of the pandemic, council chair Eileen Long said.
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