Last week, Fairfax County Public Schools adopted a proposal to remove certain phrases from its current dress code that were perceived as shaming female students. Meanwhile, neighboring Falls Church City Public Schools will continue to uphold its current policy of allowing individual City schools to outline its own personal dress codes via student handbooks, according to Falls Church City Public Schools director of communications John Brett.
Fairfax’s modified curriculum was passed by a 10-0-1 vote (with one board member in absentia) into policy after the FCPS school board heard a proposal from a special panel of teachers and administrators that the board appointed. During the meeting, the board chose to strike phrases pertaining to banned outfits such as those with “low cut necklines that show cleavage” and attire that was “otherwise sexually provocative,” according to WTOP. Although clothing that “exposed an excessive amount of bare skin” is still prohibited by FCPS.
Per WTOP, at-large board member Ryan McElveen acknowledged that female students had been uncomfortable with how the previous policy was upheld for more than a decade. Springfield district representative Elizabeth Schultz felt the policy was still too vague. But board agreed that the policy’s implementation – specifically how teachers and administrators approach the subject of inappropriate attire with students – was imperative in order to avoid denigrating them.
Brett told the News-Press that a dress code “…is a school-based decision and I’m not hearing of anything changing from current practice in the coming year,” in FCCPS schools. Currently, only George Mason High School and Mary Ellen Henderson Middle School contain brief mentions of dress codes in their student handbooks, with varying language and directives.
At Mason, students clothing choices should be “based on the belief that school is a place of business where students are learning both academic and social skills, the expectation is that students will dress in a way that is appropriate to a business environment.”
With that principle in mind, clothing that is “deemed overly revealing, unsafe, dangerous, or a health hazard,” as well as clothing that “exhibits offensive or obscene symbols, signs, slogans, or words degrading to any gender, culture, religion, or ethnic group or which promotes violence, drugs, alcohol, tobacco products, or illegal substances or actions” is not permitted to be worn by students. Along with those guidelines, any bandannas, spikes and chains and attire that is gang-related is also not permitted. School authorities reserve the right to ask students to remove the clothing, change into spare clothing provided in the school office or send the student home to change their clothing.
Henderson’s student conduct policy guidelines strikes a different tone in the first sentence of its dress code section by stating that “establishing standards for dress has the potential to be controversial.”
The short section acknowledges how other school boards address the topic, either by prohibiting clothing that disrupts the educational atmosphere or whether the clothing raises health and safety concerns. But the section ends by mentioning that some dress codes view attire as “a component of personal symbolic expression that also addresses hairstyles and buttons and badges.” No specific forms or styles of clothing were labeled as prohibited in Henderson’s student conduct policy guidelines.