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What should I know about school dress codes?

School dress codes are usually non-negotiable except for in some specific circumstances. Schools use these dress codes to help students express themselves within limits that won't cause disruptions. Clothing, as a fashion item, is used to express ideas and emotions, but many schools decide to limit this expression or to turn to uniforms, which could interfere with a student's right to self-expression.

Does my child have to follow the school dress code?

Your child must follow school dress codes unless the codes violate his or her constitutional rights. For instance, if your school tries to stop your child from wearing a flower on a day where that symbol is significant to the military or charity, you could argue that as long as that expression isn't harming others or being disruptive, it should be allowed.

Most schools have limits on clothing to prohibit profanity, obscene materials, or exhibiting too much skin. Clothing itself is not protected within a child's freedom of speech; if clothing proves to draw attention away from the school's learning environment, then it may be banned by the school.

One contrast is freedom of religion in schools. If you are Muslim, for example, you should be able to wear your religious head wear to school. Christians should be allowed to wear crosses, and Jewish students should be able to wear yarmulkes when necessary.

If your child is banned from wearing religious items at school, you may be able to file a complaint with the district and could have the right to sue over the violation of your child's constitutional rights.

Source: FindLaw, "School Dress Codes," accessed April 14, 2016

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