A high school in Illinois has completely modified their dress code to promote body-positivity and self expression, making it 100 per cent gender-neutral and allowing clothing that was previously banned, like leggings and tank tops.
Evanston Township High School’s new dress code, which will be implemented starting this fall semester, now allows hoodies, hats and spaghetti straps as permitted clothing, and specifically points out that ‘fitted pants, including opaque leggings, yoga pants and skinny jeans’ are fine to be worn by students of any gender.
In addition, staff members are being trained to explain the rules with a body-positive tone and are explicitly no longer allowed to shame students by measuring their straps or skirt lengths, or accusing them of distracting others with their clothing.
Changing the rules: Evanston Township High School (pictured) has reformed their dress code, now allowing leggings and tank tops and banning staff from ‘shaming’ students
A progressive district: The Illinois high school now allows previously banned clothing like ‘fitted pants, including opaque leggings, yoga pants and skinny jeans’
The school said on its website the reformed dress code ‘supports equitable educational access and is written in a manner that does not reinforce stereotypes and 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.’
Students should be able to manage their own distractions
Students are encouraged to wear clothes that align with their self-identified gender
Dress-code enforcement should not interfere with attendance or learning
All students should be able to dress comfortably without fear of being disciplined or body-shamed
Staff should be trained and able to use body-positive language to explain the code and address violations
Source: Evanston Township High School
It adds that the administration is leaving the ‘primary decisions around student clothing and style’ to them and their parents or guardians, and that ‘all students and staff should understand that they are responsible for managing their own personal “distractions” without regulating individual students’ clothing/self expression.’
As recently as last year, female students were not allowed to wear tank tops, shorts, or short skirts, even under 90-degree weather.
Marjie Erickson, a former student at the school, spent her senior year lobbying administrators to change the rules that she believe unfairly targeted female students of color, and with more mature bodies, after conducting a survey where she asked peers how they felt when they received dress code violations.
The eighteen-year-old, now a college freshman, worked with the assistant principal, Marcus Campbell, to figure out a better policy, but is surprised the school was willing to implement such a dramatic change.
‘They didn’t pick and choose pieces of what we said we wanted. It really stuck to new policies and the new enforcement.’ Marjie, now a freshman in college, told TODAY.
Fighting shaming: Staff members are being trained to address dress code violations in a body-positive tone and are banned from ‘shaming’ students by measuring their clothes (file photo)
Equity: The district’s superintendent Eric Witherspoon said that in an effort to enforce the previous dress code, adults were accidentally body shaming students
‘Our new dress code supports our students so they can express their individuality and personal identity when making decisions about how they dress for school,’ said the district’s Superintendent Eric Witherspoon, adding that in an effort to enforce the previous rules, adults were inadvertently body shaming students.
The progressive school borrowed language from guidelines created by the Oregon chapter of the National Organization for Women to write the new code, which still bans clothing with violent or drug-related language or images, as well as any clothing with pornography, profanity, or hostility towards minorities.
‘Like most dress codes in schools across the U.S., our code contained language that reinforced the gender binary and racial profiling, among other inequitable practices. The previous dress code and enforcement philosophy did not align with our equity goals and purpose, and it had to be changed,’ said Witherspoon.