"Since you made the mask policy optional, I intend to opt my daughter out of the dress code. Please make note."
School dress codes have long been problematic for a variety of reasons, predominantly because they are discriminatory in nature. Even the National Education Association has publicly addressed how unfairly target girls and students of color. One Tennessee mom is going viral for calling out the sexist dress code at her daughter's school while also pointing out the hypocrisy of the school's alleged "masks optional" policy.
As schools across the U.S. embark on a new school year (the third school year affected by the pandemic), mask policies have been a hot topic nationwide. Most states have left the decision of enforcing masks up to the schools themselves, and many schools are leaving that decision up to parents and students. With kids 11 and under unable to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, not enforcing mask-wearing can leave them even more susceptible to the virus.
At the Chattanooga school in question, parents can choose to have their children "opt-out" of wearing face coverings while inside the building. And the mom in question (who requested her identity not be made public) feels that the dress code should be optional as well.
"I am writing to request the parent opt-out form of the school dress code,'" she writes in the email, which quickly went viral on Twitter and Facebook. "As the parent of a daughter in East Hamilton, I find the school's dress code policy to be misogynistic and detrimental to the self-esteem of young women."
🔥EMAIL FROM CHATTANOOGA MOM TO @hamcoschools (Chattanooga): “Since you made the mask policy optional, I intend to o… https://t.co/UMbjKzdCyB— The Tennessee Holler (@The Tennessee Holler)1628769881.0
"In light of the opt-out option related to the recently announced mask mandate, I can only assume that parents are now in a position to pick and choose the school policies to which their child should be subject," the mom's letter continued. "As someone who holds a strong commitment to my feminist ideals and my desire to raise my daughter to be a strong and empowered woman able to make choices for herself, I find that the school's dress code policy does not align with my belief system. I therefore intend to opt out of this policy and send my daughter to school in spaghetti straps, leggings, cut offs, and anything else she feels comfortable wearing to school."
Not only is this response brilliant for calling out the sexism of school dress codes, but it's double brilliant for pointing out that if school dress codes can be enforced (i.e. punishing girls and interrupting their education because of the length of their shorts), masks can be enforced in order to protect one another from a life-threatening virus.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have stated that the easiest way to ensure that our schools can remain open is by taking proper precautions to limit the spread of the virus. Mask-wearing, the CDC states, is the most effective way to do that.
"Please make a note that she is not, under any circumstances, to be dress coded, as I have clearly communicated my decision to opt out of this policy," the mom's email concluded.
The reason girls' wardrobes are heavily policed in schools is shrouded in victim-blaming. By claiming shorts above the knee and tank tops are "distracting" to male students, it implies that the male response to female clothing is the "fault" of the female. It's unfair to teach girls that they should feel self-conscious and shameful about their clothing, and it's unfair to boys to assume they can't control themselves in the presence of girls wearing regular clothes.
Hopefully this mom's viral letter not only strikes up a national dialogue about outdated dress codes, but also shows that schools actually do have the power to control mask-wearing in order to protect the students inside.
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