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South Valley Journal

Hats are just the tip of the iceberg of new school dress code

Dec 13, 2021 02:54PM ● By Jet Burnham

This graphic illustrates general dress standards for Jordan School District students. (Photo courtesy of Jordan School District.)

By Jet Burnham | [email protected]

For the first time in decades, Jordan School District’s dress code has been updated. Specific lists of prohibited clothing and ambiguous language such as “well-groomed” and “modest” have been removed from the policy wording. The new policy gives more autonomy to school administrators to make specific decisions for their own student bodies. Included is a graphic that simplifies standards so that students, parents and administrators can easily identify if an outfit is compliant and how to adjust it if it is not.

A district committee, headed by Student Services Director Travis Hamblin, spent over a year reviewing school dress code policies from around the country. The pandemic delayed the process, but finally, after receiving substantial feedback from parents, students and educators, the new policy was approved Oct. 26 and went into effect immediately.

The next day, students responded to the news by wearing hats and flipping their hoodies onto their heads, since the new policy no longer prohibits hats. Extreme hairstyles, including hair color, are also no longer specifically prohibited. Some of the specific exclusions listed in the old code, which was written in 1974, were from the post-Vietnam era and based on the cultural norms of the majority culture.

“The policy was written back when everybody dressed a whole lot differently than how they dress now,” said Yan’tu Barber, District Diversity and Culture Specialist and member of the Jordan Ethnic Advisory Committee. He said the old policy was problematic for students who wore, for example, baggy pants or a “Boyz in the Hood” movie T-shirt which was acceptable within their culture but cause for being removed from class at school.

“We don't want our kids being sent down on dress code infractions when it's not even a dress code infraction,'' Barber said. He said when he was a teacher, he was not worried about what a kid was wearing.

“I’m not worried about that, I’m worried about if the kid is sitting in the classroom, that they're getting the content that I'm teaching,” he said. “Those are the things that supersede how a kid's dressed.”

Jordan Board of Education President Tracy Miller said the catalyst for the update of the policy was to make it more gender neutral and more culturally sensitive. The dress code is part of the Student Code of Conduct policy, which has also been revised to remove the zero-tolerance responses and punitive consequences for student behavior, including dress code violations.

“What we sought to do is avoid prescriptive enforcement to focus on learning and relationships and to reduce out of class time,” Hamblin said. The new policy provides greater flexibility by not  specifically listing types of clothing not allowed or requiring specific measurements of clothing.

Barber believes it will take time for administrators to decide what works best for their student body and then ensure consistent enforcement among staff members.

“The enforcement of it will ultimately indicate if it's a better policy or not,” Barber said. “If some of our kids of different cultural backgrounds are still getting dress code [violations], maybe at a higher clip, or for something that is maybe pertaining to their culture, then that would be more informative for us to see if the dress code is really being as effective as the new policy is written.”

The Jordan Ethnic Advisory Committee is currently trying to revise the graduation dress code to allow graduates to wear cultural decorations, such as leis and national flags, during their graduation ceremony.