In Texas, where Governor Greg Abbott just tested positive for coronavirus despite being fully vaccinated, and an executive order, which prohibits government entities and schools from requiring masks is still in place, one school district found a clever workaround for protecting their students: requiring masks as part of the dress code itself.
On Tuesday, the Paris Independent School District issued a statement that introduces perhaps the first example of a dress code being used for good (stopping the spread of coronavirus) instead of evil (policing girls’ bodies).
“The Board believes the dress code can be used to mitigate communicable health issues, and therefore has amended the PISD dress code to protect our students and employees,” the statement reads.
The decision followed a heated school board meeting that found parents, educators, and members of the medical community debating both sides of this argument, the Paris News reports, and eventually, the motion to mandate masks via the dress code was passed 5-1. Because Abbott’s executive order doesn’t eliminate school districts’ authority to enact codes of conduct, administrators argue that PISD has the right to take advantage of what is technically a loophole and mandate masks for its students and staff.
Still, the policy is not permanent and will be assessed monthly at every school board meeting, according to NPR.
While detractors of this decision took issue with the fact that the mandate is teaching students the wrong ideas about “exploiting” loopholes, it’s in fact a good lesson: School policies should only ever be put in place to protect its students, not humiliate them, as dress codes do. Historically, dress codes are sexist, racist, and often make teen girls feel ashamed about their bodies, their race, or both.
Currently, PISD’s dress code includes stipulations about how girls are to wear yoga pants and leggings; how long skirts, dresses, and shorts should be; and bans “spaghetti straps, tank tops and jerseys with large arm holes, beachwear, swimwear, halter tops, and tube tops.”
Now, just imagine how freeing it could be for teenagers to be able to wear what they want to wear to school without feeling shame or fearing humiliation at the hands of a school administrator tasked with enforcing these pointless policies. While administrators are amending the dress code, they should feel free to get rid of the rest of these.