Dress codes under siege

A Hamilton, Ont. high school principal just found out how volatile the issue of dress codes for students can be. She had to apologize to students and parents after reminding them to cover their shoulders and stomachs in accordance with the dress code just days after police began investigating sexual assaults at the school. The timing of her announcement led some to accuse her of blaming the victims. The dress code issue, which has been front and centre during the back-to-school period, is full of minefields for teachers and school administrators who are finding out just how difficult it is to tackle without causing offence. Some have had to walk back suggestions that certain clothing is “distracting’ as that also implies girls are to blame for boys’ behaviour. And now that the issue of dress codes is being framed as sexist and discriminatory to girls, no one wants to touch it. But as students continue to push the limits of acceptable classroom fashion, school administrator and parents need to form a united front to communicate – without shaming – that what is fine attire for a day at the beach doesn’t cut it in a learning environment or a workplace.