How a Texas superintendent is defending a dress code that bans dresses

New Forney ISD dress code bans clothing with hoods and dresses for students above fourth grade.

Forney ISD’s new dress code is already facing stiff resistance from students–and the internet–for its ban on hoodies, dresses and T-shirts. Only students in K-4 will be allowed to wear dresses, skirts or skorts when school begins on Aug. 11.

The new rules are meant to prepare K-12 students for the workplace by teaching them to dress professionally according to a video (see below) created by the district, which is located just east of Dallas. The video begins with an apparently elementary-aged girl who is laying out a blue polo shirt and khaki shorts on a bed as she’s getting ready for school. In the voiceover, she says that while she’s a little young to fully understand professionalism, she also realizes that all jobs have a dress code “whether it’s scrubs, a welding helmet or chef’s apron.” She also says that professionalism is one of the top five employability skills that employers look for.

“I’m starting early by shining in the classroom and following the school dress code. Later on, I can shine in the workforce too,” she says. “As a student, I will do my part with the help of my family and my teachers to learn and model professionalism as I prepare for my dream career.”

The code doesn’t just ban hoodies, it bans any clothing with a hood, including all “outerwear” such as windbreakers, fleece, sweaters or sweatshirt-type jackets, or pullovers. A student who violates this dress code will be allowed to correct the problem at school. If not corrected, the student faces in-school suspension for the remainder of the day, until the problem is corrected, or until a parent brings an acceptable change of clothing to school, the dress code says.

The purpose of a school dress code is to “improve student self-esteem, bridge socioeconomic differences among students, and promote positive behavior,” the district says on its website.

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The new code is part of the district’s effort to help students develop “foundational, baseline employability skills” such as showing up to work on time, communicating effectively with colleagues and remaining engaged on the job, Superintendent Justin Terry says in the video.

“We are so excited to reset this bar with you, with our parents, with our community, with all of our business partners, as we work together to take our schools, our classrooms, back for the future of our kids to have a safe, enjoyable, and exciting learning environment,” Terry says without mentioning dresses, hoodies, or even dress codes. He does not explain why the district feels dresses and skirts are unprofessional.

A Forney ISD high school student, Brooklynn Hollaman, has already launched an online petition drive to “fight unreasonable dress code changes.” “The majority of students that attended Forney school district and their parents are outraged by this,” Hollaman says in her petition. “Any sensible person can realize that this is completely wrong.” The dress code is also being sharply criticized on social media, particularly by women in the Dallas area:

Others pointed out that Forney ISD’s new rules may actually be out of touch with the ways in which the pandemic has changed how people work, including how they are expected to dress:

Matt Zalaznick
Matt Zalaznick
Matt Zalaznick is a life-long journalist. Prior to writing for District Administration he worked in daily news all over the country, from the NYC suburbs to the Rocky Mountains, Silicon Valley and the U.S. Virgin Islands. He's also in a band.

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