Education Race

D.C. Dress Codes Disproportionately Affect Black Girls, Report Finds

A new report released on Wednesday by the National Women’s Law Center found that the racial breakdown of the student body in D.C. schools directly correlates with the strictness in dress code policy and that D.C. charter schools have twice the number of restrictions as that of public schools and suspend girls for dress code violations at higher rates.

According to the authors, majority Black high schools (schools where Black students make up 51 percent or more of the student body) have more dress code restrictions on average than other high schools. This report serves as a follow-up to a previous one that was published in April of 2018 by the NWLC that primarily focused on the discrimination that Black girls face due to school dress codes. It has been argued in the past that, regardless of race, dress codes are frequently gendered and primarily target young women.

Black girls in D.C. are 20.8 times more likely to be suspended from school than white girls. Additionally, Black girls are frequently targeted due to choice of head-wraps, hair styles, body type, and other factors. As a response to these policies, some students across different high schools have organized protests, walkouts, and campaigns to confront their administrations about dress code policies.

Ayiana Davis, a student at Duke Ellington School for the Arts, talked about a “head wrap clapback” that was organized by students in order to highlight policies about headwear. “We were just trying to prove a point because we were like, ‘Don’t sit here and scrutinize these kids just because they came in a durag, or just because they came in a scarf, or bandanna, and call it unprofessional, because this is literally school, not a job.’”

In a statement released on Wednesday, a spokesman for D.C. Public Schools said that school officials have conducted feedback sessions with students, teachers, and staff to discuss the NWLC report and look at other recommendations that they feel would best support students.

Sources: NWLC 4/24/18; NWLC 9/4/19; Washington Post 9/5/19

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