DPS Updates Dress Code

By Sadie Irby, Nellie Purdy, Rory O’Connor and Hannah Posner

Durham Public Schools adopted a more lenient dress code for the 2022-23 school year and beyond. 

The updated dress code aims to create “equitable educational access,” avoid reinforcing stereotypes and reduce marginalization or oppression of any group.

More specifically, it allows students to wear fitted pants, spaghetti straps, crop tops, and other previously banned clothing. 

The old dress code does not allow cleavage to be revealed or skirts and shorts shorter than mid thigh. Pants “below waist level,” and “excessively tight or baggy,” items were also prohibited. 

The revised dress code does state that students must wear “fabric covering all private parts of the body” that isn’t “see-through or mesh or transparent.” It also still prohibits clothing that is  “reasonably likely to create a substantial and material disruption to the educational process” and retains the general rule prohibiting articles that “depict profanity, vulgarity, obscenity, or violence” and “Gang-Related Activity,” or that “are reasonably expected to intimidate other students.”

The dress code given to Riverside’s students and staff does not include a specific policy about hats and hoodies, but according to ABC 11 news, DPS Chief of Staff Tanya Giovanni says there is a rule in place. After meeting with school administrators Giovanni states that, “hats and hoodies will not be allowed,” in Durham Public Schools.

Riverside assistant principal Jasmine McKoy says that this rule stands at Riverside. To her understanding, the reason why the dress code does not state this policy is because the DPS board of education didn’t include it. 

McKoy said she also hasn’t seen any changes in the policy or enforcement while she’s been working here. Most students don’t choose to wear hats or hoodies so enforcement doesn’t have to be super strict about it.

McKoy agrees with the current hat and hoodie policy. 

“I feel like it should be enforced to ensure that we can identify students properly,” she said. 

Identifying students is a key component of Riverside and all school’s campus security. 

McKoy also said hats and hoodies could be a possible distraction to students.

The changes have been met with almost unanimous support from Riverside teachers and students.

 Junior Azzuri Davis is relieved to have fewer rules to worry about when choosing an outfit. 

“We don’t come to school to worry about our clothes,” she said. “We are here to do our work.” 

Junior Divinity Gooch likes that the new rules are more inclusive. She said she was “dress coded” several times in middle school for unintentionally wearing shorts and shirts that were too revealing. 

Gooch also said the rules about hairstyles are a welcome change. 

“For people who look like me and have hair like I do, hairstyles are a form of self expression,” she said. 

While students began the year with fewer restrictions on clothing and therefore fewer chances to be “dress coded,” many haven’t noticed the change. 

Juniors Cristal Perada and Cameron Daye said they did not know DPS had updated it. However, once they read the new policy, they both agreed it to be better than the old one. 

Perada was happy to see that the dress code was for everyone, not just girls, who are usually the targets of these rules. Daye agreed with the rules for high schoolers but said they were too moderate for middle schoolers, who should not be allowed to wear such revealing clothing. 

Social studies teacher Janet Heape is also excited about the new changes and freedom.

“I am excited that the new dress code provides students with more choice in what they decide to wear and how they choose to express themselves,” Heape said. She also believes this year’s change will take away some teacher-student disagreements.

Heape, who went to a high school with a very strict dress code, said that her teachers used rulers to measure clothing length and decide if it was appropriate. Her school had rules against tank tops, facial piercings, and aggressively enforced length checks on shorts and skirts. 

English teacher Laura Brady said that it is important for students to be able to express themselves.

“The idea of professionalism is valid in some settings,” she said, “but high schoolers should be allowed to express themselves.”

Brady says the new DPS dress code is “radically different” from the one she had as a high school student, too. Her dress code prohibited certain colors due to gangs and had strict length requirements.

While she doesn’t think there is a significant difference between how students dress this fall and last, Brady believes the revisions will ultimately make her job a little easier. 

“[It’s] not my duty to prevent students from wearing clothing that reveals their shoulders but to keep disruptive, offensive clothing from disrupting the classroom community,” she said. 

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