The School Dress Code and Your Middle Schooler

Learn What Your Student Can and Cannot Wear to School

School Girls Laughing Together in Classroom
Cavan Images/Digital Vision/Getty Images

Many private and public schools have dress codes. Some schools require uniforms while others discourage certain styles or types of clothing. Middle school is often a kid's introduction to dress codes and it is also a time when they want to express their individual style and these two worlds can collide.

Parents are often right in the middle of the argument. Your son or daughter wants to wear one thing to school, but it violates the school dress code.

That is why it is important to understand why dress codes are in place and explain it to your teenager.

Learning the Rules in the Transition to Middle School

Your child will encounter numerous changes in middle school and one of those are the school rules. The school dress code is something your student should know about well before that first day of middle school. It will help in your back-to-school shopping as well.

Understanding the dress code and what your child should and should not wear to school is crucial to avoiding problems throughout the school year. Schools do not enforce these rules just to be mean, they are in place for good reasons.

Below are a few dress code rules that your child's school might enforce.

  • Check your school's student handbook for specifics.
  • Be sure to ask any questions you may have about the dress code at the middle school open house or orientation.

Why Do Schools Have a Dress Code?

Despite your child's opinion on the matter, many dress code rules are in place for a reason.

Schools may choose to implement a dress code to maintain order in the classroom. Others may use it to prevent health and safety issues at the school.

Dress codes are often disputed by students and parents. Some believe dress codes and school uniforms are too rigid. Others say the students should be able to express themselves and that dress codes are a violation of freedom of speech.

School officials argue that dress codes help them maintain order in the school, help prevent distractions and sometimes even theft or violence. Quite often, an individual school changed the dress code after situations in the past have disrupted the learning environment.

For instance, a school that is trying to combat gang violence on campus may not allow clothing that has commonly promoted gang affiliation. Likewise, girls wearing skimpy clothing may distract boys during class or bring harm to a girl through sexual violence or jealousy from other girls.​

What to Expect in School Dress Codes

Most schools have dress codes in place, but what may be appropriate at one school may not pass muster at another. What's more, some middle schools may only occasionally enforce the rules while others may routinely send students home for violating them.

The best of defense is to know the rules and follow them.

While many private and public schools do require school uniforms, many do not. But that doesn't mean anything goes.

For the most part, schools ask the students follow these general guidelines:

  • Avoid clothing with vulgar words, sayings or illustrations on them.
  • Avoid wearing hats, or scarves (as they can be a distraction in class).
  • Avoid clothing with tobacco or alcohol logos on them.
  • Avoid clothing that promotes racism, is offensive to women or is otherwise offensive.
  • Avoid skirts or shorts that are above the knee line.
  • Avoid pants that fall below the waistline.
  • Avoid shirts or tops that are strapless or have spaghetti straps.
  • Avoid clothing that can pose a distraction in class.
  • Avoid clothing that is unsafe (such as those that pose a tripping hazard, etc.).
  • Avoid clothing that is associated with gangs (or even colors that are associated with gangs).
  • Avoid clothing that is too tight or sexually suggestive.

In general, most of these dress code rules are not hard to follow. The point is to avoid offending other students, teachers or other school staff and create the best learning environment for everyone.

Parents can think of the dress code this way: Would you wear it to work? It is a good example and teaches kids that there are appropriate outfits for different situations. We often need to dress the 'part' and right now they are playing the role of a student.

Continue Reading