Sexist, racist and classist: Why the feds are getting involved in school dress codes

Students, advocates, researchers and now a congressional watchdog agency are urging public schools to rethink their dress codes, which some argue are sexist, racist and

classist, foster a culture of inequity and can interfere with some kids' access to an education. These issues were at the center of protests against local dress

codes nationwide, including in Cobb County, Georgia; Longview, Washington; and Sharon Hill, Pennsylvania, when schools returned to in-person learning following pandemic-related

closures. One high-profile case at a North Carolina charter school – where girls were once required to wear skirts, skorts, or dresses until a federal court

intervened – could be heard by the U.S. Supreme Court. Start the day smarter. Get all the news you need in your inbox each morning. Nearly all – about

93% – of the nation's schools have some kind of dress code policy, with about half of all schools enforcing a strict dress code, and about 1 in 5 schools requiring uniforms, the

Government Accountability Office found in a report late last year. Most districts have some variation of bans against spaghetti strap shirts, short skirts, leggings, muscle

shirts, sagging pants, or certain clothing colors or logos. Although often created in the name of safety, some of these rules can actually jeopardize students'

well-being. What can the federal government do? The GAO report is among the first federal callouts for intervention, though groups including the

American Civil Liberties Union have long argued that problems accompany school uniform policies.