Durham Public Schools makes plans to adopt new, more-inclusive dress code

22 June 2022

DURHAM, N.C. (WTVD) — A new dress code could soon be approved for Durham Public School students. Some leaders are pushing for a more inclusive policy to further create what they call a “more welcoming” learning environment.

Wearing short shorts or thin straps may no longer be an issue for students in Durham public schools, as the board will be voting on a new dress code policy this week.

Leaders behind the idea hope it bridges any racial or gender gaps.

Durham leaders are mirroring the approach made by leaders in Portland, Oregon, when they did away with their traditional dress code.

Lisa Frack a parent who also modeled the policy in Oregon says it has been a success for many students

“The kids coming in now through kindergarten won’t even notice, which is wonderful. But yeah, they remember having to get dressed and not wear spaghetti straps. They remember someone saying your skirts too short. So I think they feel freer. I mean, they feel like they didn’t like what was happening before. And someone fixed it,” said Frack.

Their idea is to make it more inclusive which would allow bra straps and midriffs to be visible as well as underwear waistbands and hoodies.

DPS chairwoman Bettina Umstead said they want a new policy that does not disproportionately affect trans students or minority students.

This is the policy listed in the agenda:

A. Allowable Dress & Grooming

1. Students must wear clothing including dresses/jumpsuits, or both a shirt or top with bottoms, including shorts, pants or a skirt, or the equivalent and shoes.

2. Clothing must have fabric in the front, back, and on the sides.

3. Clothing must cover undergarments; underwear waistbands and bra straps are not required to be covered and are excluded.

4. Fabric covering all private parts of the body must be opaque and cannot be see-through or mesh or transparent. Private parts include the breasts, genitals and buttocks.

5. Fitted pants, including leggings, yoga pants, and “skinny jeans”

6. Sweatpants, pajama/lounge pants midriff-baring shirts (must be able to cover private areas when arms are raised), ripped jeans as long as any portion of undergarments covering private parts are not visible.

7. Tank tops, including spaghetti straps, halter tops, and strapless tops.

8. Religious headwear is expressly allowed to cover the head and face.

9. Clothing must be suitable for all scheduled classroom activities including physical education, science labs, wood shop, and other activities where unique hazards may exist.

a. Courses requiring attire as part of the curriculum (for example, professionalism, public speaking, CTE courses, and job readiness may include assignment specific dress, but should not focus on covering bodies in a particular manner or promoting culturally specific attire.

10. Specialized courses may require specialized attire.

a. School-sanctioned uniforms and costumes approved by the principal for athletic, choral, band or dramatic performances are allowed.

11. Students may dress and style their hair for school in a manner that expresses their individuality and culture, including, for example, locs, braids, geles

a. Certain programs may have more restrictive requirements for hairstyles, including NCHSAA and ROTC programs, which require signatures of students and parents consenting to these restrictions on grooming and dress.

B. Prohibitions

Students are prohibited from wearing clothing, jewelry, book bags, or other articles of personal appearance which:

1. depict profanity, vulgarity, obscenity, or violence;

2. promote use or abuse of tobacco, drugs, or alcohol;

3. endangers or creates a threat to the health or safety of the student or others;

4. are prohibited under the Gangs and Gang Activities in Policy 4301(III-7) and GangRelated Activity, Policy 4328;

5. are reasonably likely to create a substantial and material disruption to the educational process or to the operation of the school, including but not limited to items that are reasonably expected to intimidate other students on the basis of race (for example the Confederate battle flag, swastika, and Ku Klux Klan or KKK), color, national origin, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, disability, age, or religious affiliation.

The board will vote on the new code on Thursday at their meeting.

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