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Editorial: School dress codes shame girls, can cut into class time

Students are pulled out of their classes and sometimes even sent home when they violate dress codes.

A survey from 2010 cited in a Post article today found that 57 percent of American public schools have some sort of strict dress code.

That is far too many, and more often than not, those dress codes come at a disproportionately harsh cost to a girl’s education.

Dress codes commonly are grounded in the belief that the way someone dresses can distract other students from their classroom experiences. The program coordinator at Ohio University’s Women’s Center raises the valid point that dress standards actually are more distracting to the students who violate them.

Some of the ways administrators decide to punish those who violate dress code — using demerits, pulling them out of class, wearing a piece of clothing from the school’s collection — shames and creates an environment where (mostly women’s) bodies are objects to be carefully covered up.

Those students — again, too often girls — get pulled out of their classes and sometimes even are sent home. Most of the time, that’s in front of an entire group of students who will focus on the event occurring in front of them, rather than their classwork. How does treating a pupil like that benefit her education or the education of her peers? We don’t see the supposed logic in that.

A too-skinny tank top strap or pair of denim shorts never stopped a girl from her education, so why should it stop a boy who’s supposedly distracted by her clothing choices? Not only do such dress code policies oversexualize girls, they assume a boy always would rather focus on a member of the opposite sex rather than his studies. If a shoulder is that sexually distracting, there are other problems to be dealt with.

The point is this: Schools are conditioning women from a young age to believe they cannot openly express themselves. That has serious repercussions beyond their education.

Editorials represent the majority opinion of The Post's executive editors: Editor-in-Chief Emma Ockerman, Managing Editor Rebekah Barnes and Digital Managing Editor Samuel Howard. Post editorials are independent of the publication's news coverage.

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