Forney Independent School District (FISD), located about 25 miles east of Dallas, has updated its dress code for all of its 18 public schools. FISD wants to move to a focus on encouraging “workforce skills”. In order to prepare students to enter the workforce, they need to know how to dress appropriately. So, the dress code has been modified and taken a more conservative turn.

Forney ISD has banned all hooded clothing, including coats and jackets with hoods, inside schools. Dresses will only be allowed for students up to Grade 4 but banned for Grade 5 and up. No skirts or skorts, either. There is a prohibition on wearing t-shirts and denim pants. FISD Superintendent Justin Terry released a video explaining the new dress code and the reasons for it. The superintendent says he will release a series of videos during the summer to “reset this bar” – to take “our schools, our classrooms back for the future of our kids.”

The district currently has about 15,000 students enrolled, spokesperson Kristin Zastoupil said.

In the video, Terry said officials were excited to “reset this bar” with the help of parents, community members and others “as we work together to take our schools, our classrooms, back for the future of our kids to have a safe, enjoyable and exciting learning environment.”

The video begins with the voices of children. One notes that all professions have dress codes. Many wear uniforms, others are expected to dress a certain way. As you might expect, though, some students are not happy about this decision. A petition has been circulated and so far has garnered more than 3,400 signatures. The petition asks people to “join the fight against these unfair policies. “I feel all female students are being denied the freedom to dress as young ladies,” one petitioner wrote.

I have to admit, the banning of dresses for all but the youngest students puzzles me. Maybe they don’t want to have to deal with what is and isn’t appropriate for school in dresses. The ironic thing is that for the beginning of my professional life, woman wearing pants in the workplace was very uncommon and frowned upon. Pantsuits slowly became accepted and then dress codes for women loosened. Times have definitely changed. People are more casually dressed in most aspects of life.

This is a public school district and I wonder if they will be allowed to maintain this dress code. Jazz wrote about a school in North Carolina that issued a dress code that required girls to wear skirts. Four girls objected to wearing skirts and their parents sued. In this case, the school sounds like a private one – or at least a charter school – as its name is Charter Day School. The 4th US Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of the four girls, using the argument that the school is a “state actor.” It will be interesting to see if any parents sue over this change and how it will stand up in court.

On the school’s website, there is an explanation for the need for dress codes.

Dress codes are implemented to “improve student self-esteem, bridge socio-economic differences among students, and promote positive behavior, thereby enhancing school safety and improving the learning environment,” according to the district’s website.

Students who don’t follow the dress code can face on-campus suspension for the remainder of the day, until the issue is corrected or until a parent or designated adult brings them an acceptable change of clothes to school.

This is how its has been for private schools all along. Many public schools have switched over to conservative dress codes, too. It takes pressure off kids that don’t come from more affluent families. They don’t have to worry about keeping up with the latest designer labels and styles. There is a lot of freedom for a student in knowing what he or she will be wearing and everyone else will be wearing the same things.

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