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What's the lesson in Forney ISD's strange new dress code?

Original source (on modern site)

Forney ISD officials seem to think that wearing dresses is unprofessional. That is the conclusion we are left to draw from the rollout of a bizarre new district dress code that bans dresses and skirts on students from fifth grade on.

The district's explanations for its new policy are vague, but Forney ISD Superintendent Justin Terry said in a video that the dress code is part of a push to teach "workforce skills."

It's as if district administrators live in a world where professional women everywhere don't wear perfectly appropriate dresses and skirts to work.

The new policy also bans hoodies. That makes sense for safety reasons; hoodies obscure faces. But the district has not adequately explained why students in intermediate, middle school and high school should be forbidden from wearing dresses and skirts.

Other districts in the Dallas area restrict their length. In fact, it had been Forney ISD's policy to allow dresses falling between the bottom of the knee and up to 3 inches above. What happened?

Families in Forney are left to parse a brief video produced by the district that states that dress codes will help students learn and make schools safer. Of course schools must have some degree of control over what students wear. But dress codes must be reasonable, and dresses and skirts are wholly in the realm of acceptable apparel for an array of jobs.

The district needs to return the option of skirts and dresses for older students, with adjustments to length limits if necessary. That, or it needs to lay out a better case for its changes.

Forney ISD did not return our calls. But the YouTube video accompanying its dress code announcement shows a young girl talking about how she is learning professionalism by following the school dress code. The superintendent later says that the school is preparing its kids to follow the expectations of an employer.

As the video indicates, there are professionals such as firefighters and surgeons who can't wear dresses on the job. But we can think of a universe of employers — including public schools — that often do allow modest-length dresses and skirts in the workplace. The girl in Forney ISD's video says she wants to be a teacher, a profession in which dresses and skirts are widely used.

According to the district website, Forney ISD staff can still wear these items.

The district writes on its website that a student dress code improves student self-esteem and promotes positive behavior. That is a broad assertion, with no justification of the dress and skirt ban for older students. Yet students are now faced with the prospect of on-campus suspension for a day unless they change to clothes that Forney ISD deems acceptable.

Students are not happy. Brooklynn Hollaman, a rising sophomore at Forney ISD, created a petition to protest the dress code updates. Currently, more than 4,000 people have signed.

And it's not only students. Parents, too, are puzzled and upset by this questionable policy. We hope the district reconsiders.

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