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A local group is calling on the Austin School Board to revise the dress code in the area, claiming it is “fuzzy, arbitrary, gender-discriminatory, racially discriminatory, inconsistent with AISD values”.
In a public comment section of the board meeting on September 24th, Candace Pruett of the Austin family’s Common Sense School dress code asked board members to form a committee to review and modify dress code. She said the organization is issuing a petition to support the request, which will be submitted to the board on October 22. As of press time, the petition has 340 signatures.
“Need to eliminate vague language like ‘short film distraction’. The language is subjective and leads to execution bias in the code. Most of the restrictions in the code are for girls’ wear. The result is that AISD is adjusting the girl’s body. “Pruett told the board. “In addition, the ban on loose pants and some school-specific restrictions on hair is culturally insensitive and they are racist.”
According to information obtained by American politicians through the Texas Public Information Act:
Since the change took effect in 2004, the total number of lockouts based on dress code issued annually in the district is still relatively small. There are 14 dress codes for the 2016-17 school year, and 29 for the 2017-18 school year.
In the 2016-17 school year, female students accounted for 100% of the suspension requirements for the Austin School District, while the 2017-18 school year’s dress requirements were suspended for 59%.
In the 2017-18 school year, violations of the dress code were the only violations in the “miscellaneous” category – including cheating, gambling and class conversations – where women were suspended more frequently than men.
There are no ethnically-designed dress codes that require suspension of data, but Austin School District students’ general suspension data shows that in the 2017-18 school year, 8% of African-American students were disciplined during family suspensions – in contrast, 4% Hispanic Students and 1.5% of white students. In contrast, the number of students enrolled in the region is about 57% Hispanic, 29% Anglo, and 7% African American.
In recent months, according to the #MeToo campaign, dress code has been a hot topic of debate across the country. In 2004, after the school’s killing of the second year of Reagan’s high school student Ortralla Mosley, the dress code in the Austin area was significantly tightened. However, while some say that stricter dress codes ensure the safety and respect of the school, others claim that the wording and law enforcement in the area are inconsistent with the rights of students.
More strict rules
In the early 21st century, the dress code in the Austin area was relatively loose, with a primary focus on prohibiting the use of “vulgar or obscene language” or promoting the use of tobacco or drugs. However, after her ex-boyfriend Marcus McTeer was stabbed to death by Mosley in Reagan High School in March 2003, the situation changed. The community convened a community safety working group to make recommendations, including prohibiting students from leaving the campus for lunch, adding security cameras and stricter dress code.
According to the tight-fitting dress code that came into effect in August 2004, the list of prohibited items includes loose pants, open-back tops, gang-related clothing or colors, hanging neck tops, thin shoulder straps and shorts or skirts, which are considered short enough to avoid distraction. It also enables the campus to use additional clothing requirements or uniforms with the support of the school community and trustees.
At the time, Director Pat Forgione said the new dress code represented “the lowest level of comparability and clarity,” adding that “in a sense,” many of us would agree.