Student dress code rights continue to challenge school administrators to make decisions that benefit the culture. Many school dress code policies become antiquated once approved by the local oversight administration. It appears that the administrative thirst to continue to dominate the students cultural impact creates a never-ending dilemma. This every changing dilemma continues to jeopardize the overall mission of the school which is to create citizens that contribute to our society in a positive manner. Schools must develop a process that respects the dress code without fostering a school environment that fuels a negative student perception.
When students have a positive perception of schools, the outcome is beneficial for schools and the students. For example, Students do better in school when they believe getting a good education will increase their chances for success. Students who perceive that teachers have favorable feelings toward them have higher achievement levels when teachers have positive views toward them.
Alternatively, students who have negative perceptions regarding their school have negative perceptions about the school. Staff, and the community. Black and Latino urban high school students believe their underachievement results when they perceive racism and discrimination toward them and become limited by American society. Black adolescents believe school is a hostile place and teachers are oppression agents and believe that White teachers symbolize the racism Black students have endured throughout their entire lives. The challenge with the student dress code rights provide John Muir High School administrators and opportunity to swing the student perception pendulum.
In the case of John Muir High School located in Pasadena CA., students have protested the school ban on do-rags. According to senior student Reggie Myles, he told the Star News that “The main reason we protest is because we’re trying to stop the criminalization of black men on campus”. Students involved in the walk out claim that the ban on do-rags is an attempt at “trying to cleanse our ethnic beauty” while also perpetrating a stereotype that the head covering is gang-related apparel.
According to the Pasadena Unified School District’s dress code. Do-rags are not mentioned specifically. The dress code policy bans hats, caps, and other head coverings. The problem with this type of ban is that it is discriminatory.
The U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights (OCR) prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, disability, or age. The ban on do-rags is discriminatory on the basis of gender and ethnicity. A do-rag or du-rag is a scarf worn on the head after a hair treatment process. Many women wear a scarf after a hair treatment of as a way to protect their hair. Some wear a scarf to make a fashion statement or for religious reason.
Another headgear that is frequently worn without opposition is the kippah. A kippah is a brimless cap, usually made of cloth, worn by male Jews to fulfill the customary requirement held by Orthodox halachic authorities that the head be covered. It is usually worn by men in Orthodox communities at all times, and according to Pewforum.org, up to 82% of the people who wear kippot identify as Orthodox. Most synagogues and Jewish funeral services keep a ready supply of kippot.
The du-rag know as a scarf also has ethnic roots related to the history of African Americans. Do-rags were originally founded as the headgear of poor African American women laborers and slaves in the 19th century. In the 1930s, during the Harlem Renaissance and Great Depression, the do-rag evolved into a hairstyle preserver. After the Black Power Movement in the late 1960s, the do-rag became a fashion statement among African Americans, worn by rappers, athletes and men of all ages. In the 2000s, wearing do-rags in public lost popularity in certain areas but maintained its popularity in others. However, because of rappers, such as A$AP Ferg and the return of waves as a hairstyle, they have now regained their status as a fashion among the African American community.
The Pasadena Unified School District would benefit from a transformation in their dress code policy. In the future they should include dialogue from representations of all ethnicity. Otherwise, any dress code develop without their input will result in accusations of racism which detracts from the mission of education all students and embarrass the school and the community that they serve.
All the best,
L. Campbell, Ed.D.
PO Box 4707 Cherry Hill, NJ 08034
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