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Stupidity For A School Dress Code Policy

This is one of those “you’ve just got to be kidding me” stories. From the San Francisco Chronicle:

Redwood Middle School Campus - 1Some schools ban gang colors. Others prohibit miniskirts. But 14-year-old Toni Kay Scott and her parents say they weren’t prepared for a school that outlawed Tigger on a pair of socks.

For coming to class at a Napa middle school wearing hosiery that portrayed the Winnie-the-Pooh character — in violation of the school’s solid-colors-only, no-pictures, no-logos dress code — the seventh-grader landed in the principal’s office, and then in a detention program called Students With Attitude Problems.

Now Redwood Middle School and the Napa Valley Unified School District, which approved the code, have landed in court.

Redwood Middle School Campus - 2The school’s “unconstitutionally vague, overbroad and restrictive uniform dress code policy” flouts state law, violates freedom of expression, and wastes teachers’ and students’ time and attention that would be better spent on education, the American Civil Liberties Union said in a suit filed Monday on behalf of six students and their parents.

Toni Kay, now an eighth-grade honors student, said Tuesday that she’s been cited more than a dozen times in the last year and a half, and sent home from school twice, for such infractions as wearing a polo shirt with the manufacturer’s butterfly logo, a pair of pink tennis shoes and a shirt with the insignia of the anti-drug program D.A.R.E.

Here’s how the article describes the dress code:

The school policy, in effect for more than a decade, requires students’ clothes and backpacks to be entirely solid colors: The only colors permitted are blue, white, green, yellow, khaki, gray, brown and black. The only acceptable fabrics are cotton twill, chino and corduroy.

No jeans or “denim-looking” clothes allowed. No pictures, words, symbols or patterns, except the school logo. And definitely no Tigger.

One girl at school was cited for wearing a pink ribbon pin in support of breast cancer awareness. Another girl at the school was cited once for going to school wearing pink socks, and sent to the principal’s office again last month for wearing a t-shirt that read “Jesus Freak.”

Geez Louise, the ban on clothing text would seem to violate federal precedence on free speech, and the ban on clothing that has nothing to do with school safety (i.e. wearing pink ribbons in support of breast cancer awareness) seems like it flaunts the language of California law on dress codes. Per the California Education Code:

48907. Students of the public schools shall have the right to exercise freedom of speech and of the press including, but not limited to, the use of bulletin boards, the distribution of printed materials or petitions, the wearing of buttons, badges, and other insignia, and the right of expression in official publications, whether or not such publications or other means of expression are supported financially by the school or by use of school facilities, except that expression shall be prohibited which is obscene, libelous, or slanderous.

32282. (2) (F) The provisions of any schoolwide dress code, pursuant to Section 35183, that prohibits pupils from wearing “gang-related apparel,” if the school has adopted such a dress code. For those purposes, the comprehensive school safety plan shall define “gang-related apparel.” The definition shall be limited to apparel that, if worn or displayed on a school campus, reasonably could be determined to threaten the health and safety of the school environment.

Any schoolwide dress code established pursuant to this section and Section 35183 shall be enforced on the school campus and at any school-sponsored activity by the principal of the school or the person designated by the principal. For the purposes of this paragraph, “gang-related apparel” shall not be considered a protected form of speech pursuant to Section 48950.

It’s almost unbelievable that this dress code has been in place — and unchallenged — for about ten years. It’s not just a stupid dress code policy because the regulations are so over the top (and hey! unlawful!), but it’s a stupid dress code policy because the school board seems to have been begging to defend itself in a lawsuit. Picking lawsuit-sized fights over obviously unlawful and indefensible dress code policies takes money right out of the classroom. Umm . . . Duh!

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