Leggings. Skirts that hit above the knee. Spaghetti-strap tank tops.
That was what some students were wearing when they were pulled out of class for dress code violations in schools around the country. In 2015, several of the dress code violation stories went viral.
The stories reached Lisa Frack, then the president of the National Organization for Women’s Oregon chapter (Oregon NOW).
“I think a lot of people were noticing and wondering what to do,” she said.
Frack said there was no model for a dress code that would meet students’ concerns.
So Frack and the board of Oregon NOW decided to write one themselves. Dubbed “the model dress code,” the code aimed to help school districts update their dress codes to be more equitable. The code was later adapted for Portland Public Schools, which approved the new, more lenient dress code in 2016.
Now, schools around the nation are adopting the dress code and using it as a model to prevent dress code violations that single out girls and students of color.
Frack joined “Think Out Loud” host Dave Miller on Wednesday to discuss the model dress code and what other schools can learn from it. Here are a few highlights of their conversation.
The model dress code was designed to let students have more freedom with what they wear.
Aside from some basic guidelines, the model dress code basically leaves clothing choices up to students. The code mandates that students must cover private parts, and wear tops and bottoms. Clothes must also have fabric on the front and sides, and must cover undergarments. But unlike some other dress codes, it doesn’t ban short clothing, leggings or tank tops with thin straps.
Frack and the other authors of the model dress code said they wanted to create a dress code that was clear and allowed students more choice to wear what they wanted to wear.
The old dress codes were not consistent between schools and were not consistently enforced.
Before Portland Public Schools implemented its new dress code, dress codes varied from school to school, Frack said. Even in the same school, the code might be enforced differently in different classrooms. One teacher might pull a student out of class for wearing something, while another teacher wouldn’t pay it any mind, Frack said.
“It wasn’t transparent or very understandable to the kids what to expect,” Frack said.
The model dress code is just what the school suggests.
Parents can still decide with their children what is appropriate to wear, Frack said.
Frack handles the topic of appropriate dress with her 12-year-old daughter by having discussions about what she wants to wear and why.
“We have the conversation, and she gets to wear what she wants,” Frack said.
To hear the full interview with Lisa Frack, click on the audio player at the top of the page.