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Nebraska’s ACLU says school dress regulations are failing students

OMAHA, Nebraska – Wednesday, the ACLU of Nebraska issued a report card reviewing the dress rules of the 15 major school districts in Nebraska, and the marks were not good.

Six of the fifteen examined school districts are located in the Omaha metropolitan area, with two more located just outside. Omaha Public Schools, Lincoln Public Schools, Millard Public Schools, Papillion La Vista Community Schools, Elkhorn Public Schools, Grand Island Public Schools, Bellevue Public Schools, Westside Community Schools, Kearney Public Schools, Gretna Public Schools, Fremont Public Schools, Norfolk Public Schools, Columbus Public Schools, and North Platte Public Schools were analyzed by the ACLU.

The schools received three D’s and two F’s across five categories.

According to the ACLU research, school dress restrictions are “based in prejudices,” are focused mainly at girls, and are “frequently enforced disproportionately against Black girls and other students of color.”

“Gendered terminology in dress codes and unequal enforcement subject girls to discipline, embarrassment, and worry, cause them to miss class time, and diminish their feeling of school community. Additionally, gender-based dress restrictions invite discriminatory enforcement against nonbinary, transgender, and gender-nonconforming pupils.”

Particularly, the policies lacked clarity and were inadequate in their handling of infractions, citing examples of regulations that included expulsion as a form of punishment and had ambiguous language that allowed for subjective interpretation.

In addition, the study featured a positive dress code model created by the Oregon National Organization for Women. This policy highlights the importance of sticking to the essentials while permitting comfortable attire that contributes to a secure and equitable learning environment. In addition, the report emphasizes that reducing restrictive policies enables educators to focus on instructing pupils rather than policing them.

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