While virtual learning is indisputably the safest option for school this fall, students have not exactly rejoiced over the format, which most education experts agree is far from ideal. And, just when it seemed like digital learning couldn’t get any worse, it turns out that many school districts have preserved one of the most widely resented school policies, one that is frequently scrutinized for its racist and sexist enforcement: dress codes.
In Laredo, Texas, students within the United Independent School District must adhere to their typical dress code, which requires that they wear shirts or blouses that cover their shoulders and bans torn clothes or piercings that could be considered “distracting” — a common justification for policies that disproportionately target female and nonwhite students. Public schools in Springfield, Illinois, have explicitly banned pajamas. (Their guidelines also require students be “sitting up out of bed, preferably at a desk or table” during virtual school.) One school district in Louisiana is even instructing students’ family members to “dress appropriately,” in case they wander into the background of their kid’s videoconference call.
Both parents and students have responded to the mandates with frustration. “How much hassle are you going to give the parent with four kids, working a full-time job trying to support their kids, and their kid attended the Zoom meeting but he was in pajamas?” one parent whose child who attends a school in Springfield told the New York Times. In an interview with Teen Vogue, a high-school student in North Carolina whose school has preserved its dress-code policies expressed similar indignation: “Waking up to attend online school is hard enough, and putting on a ‘professional’ outfit just takes longer,” she said. “We are teenagers and are required to be at school, so why make it even more difficult to be there?”