It’s getting pretty rare when I actually can agree with  an editorial at The Des Moines Register, and I agree with editorial board when they wrote last week, “State should let schools try on dress codes for size.”

Having worked with youth most of my adult life and having been a Dean of Students in a private Christian school that didn’t have a uniform policy I can see the value of having them.  It places all kids on an equal playing field, in that youth aren’t singled out if they can’t wear the latest fad.  It also nips the issue of modesty.  Uniforms are pretty inexpensive , and keep attention from being diverted away from why kids are in school to begin with – to learn.

But a robed tyrant has said that school districts don’t have the authority to set dress code parameters basically saying they didn’t meet the criteria in Iowa Code 279.58 that allows schools to have dress codes.  I’m having a hard time understanding how this particular judge to ruled this way when the code says directly:

Gang-related apparel worn at school draws attention away from the school’s learning environment and directs it toward thoughts or expressions of violence, bigotry, hate, and abuse.

The board of directors of a school district may adopt, for the district or for an individual school within the district, a dress code policy that prohibits students from wearing gang-related or other specific apparel if the board determines that the policy is necessary for the health, safety, or positive educational environment of students and staff in the school environment or for the appropriate discipline and operation of the school.

When a board determines that a dress code policy is necessary of the positive educational environment of students then it is legal.  That’s leaves things pretty wide open for school boards to implement a dress code or uniform policy.  Waterloo could certainly argue that that (and I’m sure they did).

Looking at this from a perspective that embraces local control I wonder why this is even an issue at the state level?  Should the state government dictate to local school boards what they can and can’t have in a dress code policy?  I don’t think so.

Cross-posted at American Principles in Action

2 comments
  1. Hi Shane. I’m with you most of the way on this one. I support allowing school districts to set dress codes if they wish. That said, I think your characterization of the judge as a “robed tyrant” is unfair and inaccurate. It appears to me that he’s merely following state law, which permits school districts to prohibit gang-related apparel, but does not seem to permit school districts to actually require that students wear some type of school uniform. Said another way, the law appears to say what schools can prohibit students from wearing, but not what schools can require student to wear. So I think this is a job for the legislature. What do you think?

    1. I’d rather see school boards decide issues like these than the state legislature. I see your point with the law, and it is something that the Legislature will have to repeal if the wording is not clear enough.

      Frankly I don’t understand why the Legislature even had to get involved in the first place.

      Uniforms don’t violate free speech as it tells a youth what they are required to wear, not what they can’t.

      Besides with gang colors, etc. That becomes rather subjective as some gangs like certain NBA or NFL teams as well, so will NBA/NFL apparel get banned?

      I think it’s just easier to expect uniforms that way you don’t have to ban anything, and from my experience in school administration is much easier to enforce.

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