D.C. School Dress Codes Impact Black Girls Most, Report Found

September 5, 2019

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More than a year after a report said the dress codes at D.C. schools unfairly target black girls, the National Women’s Law Center said 55 percent of dress codes mention something about the fit of clothing and 59 percent regulate the length of shorts and skirts. 

In a new study, the NWLC graded D.C. public and charter schools that made their dress codes available. Two schools received a D, and 12 earned an F, the organization said. 

The schools were graded on whether they included factors such as mentioning different uniform restrictions for male and females or banning tights and leggings. 

Majority-black high schools suspend girls at higher rates than other schools and have 1.7 times the number of dress code restrictions as other schools, according to the study. 

“Black girls are impacted the most by these harmful policies, and they’re the ones leading the movement for change,” said Adaku Onyeka-Crawford, director of educational equity at NWLC, in a statement. “Their work should inspire and fuel school leaders across the country to confront this inequity and continue doing this vital work.”

Charter schools also had more restrictions than public schools during the 2018-19 school year. 

The update came after the NWLC said in 2018 that black girls are targeted more frequently than their peers. 

Since the April 2018 report, a parent recommended creating a dress code task force and students have organized walkouts and met with government officials to discuss the findings. 

"DC Public Schools is committed to ensuring every student feels loved, challenged, and prepared to positively influence society and thrive in life," a DCPS spokesman said in an emailed statement. "Our goal is always to provide safe and welcoming learning environments for all students, especially our young women and students of color. DCPS has been proactive in addressing the needs of our students and we also have clear systems in place for students, families, and staff members to report any incidents in which they have felt treated unfairly.

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