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Seattle schools' new dress code emphasizes equity, inclusivity

What's required: A top, a bottom and shoes. What's not allowed: violent imagery, hate speech, visible private parts.


The Seattle school district has adopted a new dress code and, as you might expect, some things are not allowed.

But most of the "don'ts" are not articles of clothing, but behaviors: There is to be no body shaming or unnecessary discipline. No student is to be referred to as a "distraction" because of something they are wearing. Staff should not publicly "dress code" a student who violates policy.

The new rules are intended to set a minimum standard for what students must wear to school — but more importantly, to address the fact that dress codes have often been seen as body-shaming, racist, sexist and generally discriminatory.

A statement accompanying the new policy says in part: "School dress codes have a long history in our society and are often over-reaching and biased against the female gender.  ... The policy emphasizes that regulation of student dress must be free from bias and all students have the right to be treated equitably."

The policy, emphasizing inclusivity and personal responsibility, lays out what the district calls the "essential elements of student dress": a top, a bottom and footwear.

These items, plus any jewelry or other personal items may not:

  • be pornographic, contain threats, or promote illegal or violent conduct.
  • demonstrate hate group affiliation or use hate speech (targeting groups based on race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, religious affiliation, or other protected groups).
  • intentionally show private parts.
  • cover the student’s face to the extent that the student is not identifiable (except clothing/headgear worn for a religious or medical purpose).
  • demonstrate gang association/affiliation.

Attire worn in observance of a student’s religion is not subject to this policy. In addition, individual schools with uniform policies may continue them, provided they are gender neutral and inclusive of religious attire.

The policy, in full, can be found here.

The district also lists the following "core values" as relate to student attire:

  •  Students should be able to dress and style their hair for school in a manner that expresses their individuality without fear of unnecessary discipline or body shaming.
  •  Students have the right to be treated equitably.
  • Students and staff are responsible for managing their personal distractions.
  • Students should not face unnecessary barriers to school attendance.


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