Proposed APS dress code calls for modesty, fair enforcement

Students still can’t wear super-tight clothing under proposed changes to the Atlanta Public Schools’ dress code, but suggested policy revisions make it clear that rule enforcement should be “consistent and equitable.”

The Atlanta Board of Education is scheduled to consider updates to the policy Monday, before deciding final approval at a later meeting.

In recent months, students have gathered a couple of thousand signatures on online petitions protesting the dress code the district last revised a decade ago. Critics of the current clothing rules say girls are unfairly targeted and that discipline for violations has caused some students to miss class.

The suggested changes still require clothing to be “modest and of appropriate length.” And “extremely tight clothing,” saggy pants and visible underwear remain off-limits.

But, revisions to the two-page policy include a new section that stresses the need for fair enforcement.

“Students at schools without uniform policies should be able to choose their attire for school and participate in the educational environment without fear of unnecessary discipline,” says the suggested language. “Enforcement of this dress code should not result in unnecessary barriers to school attendance. Dress code enforcement shall be carried out in a clear, consistent and equitable manner.”

The reworked policy also specifies that students are allowed to wear the clothing that “expresses their self-identified gender.”

How the policy is interpreted would still be up to each school’s principal, who decides if a student is appropriately dressed.

The North Atlanta High School student handbook takes a firm stance on leggings. Girls may wear them, but only if the hem of the item covering the leggings is deemed long enough.

“Leggings are like legs and must be appropriately covered,” states the online version of this year’s handbook.

An online petition circulated around the start of the school year said girls at the high school wear leggings to be comfortable, not to be a “distraction,” and contended dress code enforcement had been handled unfairly.

“Reprimanding females for dress code gives the notion that they are responsible for prioritizing boys’ focus in school. Our school system is so focused on boys education that they are willing to take females out of important classes and give them a disciplinary action for dress code,” the petition said. “Girls need to be equally treated. If girls are getting dress coded for outfits that cover all their skin, then boys — who sag their pants or wear shorter shorts than girls — need to be dress coded too.”

Nearly 1,100 people signed the petition.

Another online appeal seeking to change the APS dress code has collected more than 1,000 signatures. The organizer urged students to wear leggings Monday to show solidarity with the cause.

APS spokeswoman Latisha Gray released a statement late last month saying officials are aware of the petitions. She said the district worked with students and others “to craft revisions that work for students, parents, teachers and administrators.”

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