ILLINOIS STATE BOARD OF EDUCATION
DATE: December 30, 1999
M E M O R A N D U M
TO: The Honorable James "Pate" Philip, Senate President
The Honorable Emil Jones, Senate Democratic Leader
The Honorable Michael J. Madigan, Speaker of the House
The Honorable Lee A. Daniels, House Republican Leader
FROM: Glenn W. McGee
State Superintendent of Education
SUBJECT: Report on School Dress Code
Pursuant to House Resolution 0266 by the House of Representatives of the Ninety-First General Assembly of the State of Illinois, the following information is presented on school dress code policies.
cc: Governor George Ryan
Tony Rossi, Clerk of the House
Jim Harry, Secretary of the Senate
Legislative Research Unit
State Government Report Center
As resolved by the House of Representatives of the Ninety-First General Assembly of the State of Illinois, House Resolution 0266 sought to have local boards of education institute strict dress code policies in an effort to eliminate inappropriate symbols, establish an environment conducive to learning and reduce or prevent violence. Pursuant to House Resolution 0266, a reporting form (ISBE 31-91) was developed and sent to each school district along with a copy of House Resolution 0266.
In response, three hundred six (306) school districts completed the form. The respondents included fifty-two (52) elementary districts, forty-three (43) high school districts and two hundred eleven (211) K-12 school districts. The following is a breakdown of responses for each type of school district, along with examples of actual dress codes adopted by local boards of education.
Fifty-four (54) of the responses received from the one hundred six (106) elementary programs indicated dress code policies of a very general nature that were incorporated into a statement of one or two paragraphs in length. An actual example of such a policy is as follows:
Student Dress and Grooming Each student should make every effort to be clean and neat in appearance and use good judgement in the selection of proper clothing for school. Student dress should not jeopardize the student's health and safety or the health and safety of others. A student's dress may not provide a distraction from the educational activities of the school. Any student whose appearance or dress is deemed to be distracting or hazardous will be required to change the affected clothing. The entire teaching staff of each school is responsible for enforcing acceptable standards of dress for students. Final responsibility shall rest with the building principal.
Forty (40) of the elementary districts submitted policies which listed specific attire that was considered inappropriate for school attendance. An actual example of such a policy is as follows:
We believe that a clean, appropriately dressed student will be better mannered. It is for this reason that we frown upon inappropriate attire that will create a gaudy and unwholesome appearance. Normally, students would be expected to dress in traditional attire appropriate for school. The administration shall decide whether deviations from the foregoing requirements are not in keeping with the standard of education. Students who do not meet these guidelines will contact their parents for a change of clothes. Students who cannot reach parents may be kept out of classes if the clothing cannot be changed.
The following guidelines pertain to dress during the school day and at school-sponsored activities. Changes in attire for special functions will be announced.
The following attire is considered inappropriate for school. These apply to both boys and girls. Individual exceptions and clarifications are noted.
A total of 12 elementary school districts indicated that they had no adopted board policies on dress codes for students. In most cases, these 12 elementary districts were small districts of less than 250 to 300 pupil enrollment in rural areas. One of the respondents indicated House Resolution 0266 does not address the needs of a rural K-8 district of less than 200 students where student behavior is not a disruptive factor in safety or academic performance as it relates to student dress. However, two of the 12 districts did indicate plans to form a parent advisory committee to review the issue in order to formulate a possible dress code policy.
High School District Programs
A total of forty-three (43) high school districts responded to the questionnaire, eleven of which again indicated dress code policies into a general statement of one or two paragraphs in length. The following is an actual example of such a guideline:
The mode of dress and grooming reflect the student's feelings of self-respect and dignity; consequently the primary responsibility for acceptable dress and grooming rest with each student and his/her parents. The rules and regulations, which govern student dress, are sufficiently permissive to allow diversity of taste, fashion and individual preferences.
School officials are responsible for maintaining an orderly school and have the obligation to prevent any activity which interferes with the learning climate. It is always within the province of school authorities to regulate, prohibit and punish acts that undermine the school's operational philosophy. There is a strong correlation between dress and behavior; and if students are to receive the finest education we can offer, it is paramount that they dress appropriately. Clothing and styles may not be dangerous, may not be a threat to the property of the school and others, or may not threaten health standards. A student's appearance may not cause the disruption of the functioning of the school.
The remaining thirty-two (32) high school districts submitted policies which again gave examples of specific attire which was considered inappropriate for school attendance. The following is an actual example of such a policy:
We believe that a helpful guideline is to wear the clothing the way it was intended to be worn. The following examples do not contribute to the learning environment and are unacceptable:
a. If when arms are raised above the head, a bare midriff or back is exposed, the apparel will be considered unacceptable.
b. Tank tops may only be worn if apparel is worn underneath and completely covers the shoulder area (arm to the base of the neck).
*To clarify #6 of the above, the following criteria will be used in application of the rules:
Seasonal: Shorts, culottes, split skirts or similar clothing will be allowed during the months of August, September, May and June provided they comply with the following:
All other provisions of the dress code will be enforced. Shorts will be the only exception. The faculty and administration reserve the right to judge appropriate and tasteful dress. Students will be sent home and/or parents contacted whenever unacceptable clothing is worn.
Administrative Statement on Dress Code
Metal plates or cleats on shoes are not allowed because of damage to the floors and furniture. The administration reserves the right to prohibit any form of dress that is considered hazardous, unhealthy or is a distraction from the proper learning environment.
Fifty-seven (57) of the responses received from K-12 district programs indicated dress code policies of a general nature that also were incorporated into a statement of one or two paragraphs in length. This type of policy would be best characterized by the following example:
District Policy States: All students shall present themselves in a neat and orderly manner. At no time will students be allowed to wear any article of clothing, which in its appearance is objectionable, profane or suggestive. At the direction of the administrator, any article of clothing that is deemed unsafe, unhealthful or detrimental to the educational process shall be removed or changed. If the student fails to comply, the administrator shall exclude the student from the school.
In addition, Administrative Procedure gives each school building the authority to specifically address clothing types, styles and articles that would be considered unacceptable. Student handbooks, which are approved by the board of education annually, also indicate that gang related dress will be considered disruptive and specific consequences would be given as a result.
Most noticeably, seventeen (17) responses from K-12 district programs were exactly the same. These seventeen (17) appear to be policies based on language recommended by an advisory service available to local school districts. An actual example of this policy, along with case law reference is as follows:
Students' dress and grooming must not disrupt the educational process, interfere with the maintenance of a positive teaching/learning climate, or compromise reasonable standards of health, safety, and decency. Procedures for handling students who dress or groom inappropriately will be developed by the Superintendent and included in the Parent-Student Handbook.
Chandler v. McMinnville School Dist. 978 F.2d 524 (9th Cir.1992)
Karr v. Schmidt, 460 F.2d 609 (5th Cir. 1972)
Oleson by Oleson v. Board of Education, 676 F.Supp. 8 (N.D. Ill. 1987)
One hundred thirty-seven (137) K-12 school programs submitted policies that identified or listed specific attire which was considered inappropriate for school attendance. The following two examples represent such a dress code, both from a small rural 250 student population school district and a larger 2,800 student school district. The first example represents the smaller school district and the second is from the larger district.
Dress and grooming shall neither present a risk to the health, safety or general welfare of students in the school nor interfere with, nor disrupt, the educational environment or process.
Students who violate the Student Dress Code shall be immediately required to change their attire into something appropriate. Absence to change clothing is not an excused absence.
Proper student dress is basically the responsibility of the student and his/her parents. However, a student's dress and grooming must be in the best interest of the school with respect to health, welfare and safety of each individual, the student body as a whole and school property. It must not interrupt the orderly process of the school or cause distraction from the process of education. For these reasons the following items must, or must not, be worn by students:
In response to House Resolution 0266, a total of only three districts indicated actual changes in their dress codes. Each of these changes were minimal. One involved chains on wallets and the other two involved the banning of sunglasses. However, a total of forty-seven districts indicated the establishment of parent advisory committees or requested parental input in assessing current policies or the formulation of new policies. While most of these districts indicated that they did not have any known gang activity in their communities, they indicated that they would investigate the formulation of dress code policies which would address specific attire which would help to lessen dress as a competition and distraction.