Shoreline Unified will update its dress code, seeking fairness

05/05/2021

The Shoreline Unified School District is updating a dress code policy that the school’s trustees and administration say is sexist, outdated and inconsistently enforced. A change was proposed by Thomas Tyson, a new trustee, who said his daughter came home in tears in fourth grade because a teacher found that her clothes did not comply. “This is an important decision that can adversely affect a kid, not just for the day but for the rest of their school time,” he said. The current board policy, which is based on a California School Board Association template and was last renewed at Shoreline in 2018, singles out clothes generally worn by female students. “Halter tops, off-the-shoulder or low-cut tops, bare midriffs and skirts or shorts shorter than mid-thigh are prohibited,” it states. The policy also says that gym shorts can only be worn for physical education, backless sandals are not acceptable and hair shall be neatly groomed. “Isn’t high school the time to have crazy hair?” board president Jill Manning Sartori said. “It’s definitely time for an update.” A new board policy should shift decisions from teachers to principals, and require that parents are phoned except in egregious cases that call for immediate action, Mr. Tyson said. Superintendent Bob Raines told the Light this week that a proposal will be brought to the board before the start of the next school year, after principals conduct short surveys, hold informal focus groups and consult student leaders. The administration will look to the Alameda Unified School District’s revised dress code, which says that students should be able to wear clothing without fear of discipline or body shaming, and that students should be supported in developing a body-positive self-image. Guidelines that apply only to women’s clothing were removed to promote equity. Districts across the country have adopted similar revisions for similar reasons. “It will help us move away from a culture where we assume that young men, boys, don’t have any control over themselves,” Mr. Raines said. Ruby Clarke, who graduated from Tomales High School last year, spoke in support of the change at the April board meeting. She said board members and teachers don’t always meet the dress code, and the hypocrisy makes it hard for students to follow. “As a former student who was dress-coded for just wearing clothes that were weather appropriate, I think that this is a really important change,” she said. “It can be really frustrating to be made to go to the lost-and-found and wear some random person’s pants for the rest of the day—like, those haven’t been cleaned.”