How Much Can Public Schools Control What Students Wear? – New Hampshire Bulletin

According to the US Government Accountability Office, the investigative body of Congress, dress codes in schools can be harmful to LGBTQ students and people of color. These codes can lead school officials to punish these two groups simply for who they are or for expressing themselves.

However, the Supreme Court has long held that students “do not waive their constitutional rights to freedom of expression or free speech at the school gate,” as stated in a 1969 ruling. But that’s not a license for college students to go wild and wear anything.

As a professor of education policy, dealing with the constitutional rights of students – such as clothing a student can wear.

Federal and State Jurisdiction

Public education is not mentioned in the US Constitution, so it is up to the states to regulate it under the 10th Amendment. But since the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965, Congress has allocated federal funding to education in exchange for states and school districts enacting specific policies. An example is Title I funding to support education in schools that serve low-income communities.

The Bill of Rights, including the First Amendment, governs publicly funded efforts such as B. public education.

The legal standard for dress codes, therefore, is this amendment’s declaration that citizens’ freedom of expression should generally be free from government regulations – and therefore student appearances should be largely outside the purview of school officials.

Tinker with education

But the First Amendment has not always been applied. Just a few decades ago, federal courts were debating whether students in public schools had any constitutional rights at all. In 1965, five students wore black armbands—a kind of tacit political protest—to school, protesting the Vietnam War. The oldest three students were suspended from school for wearing them and refusing to take them off when ordered by the principals.

This case, Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School Districtgot as far as the Supreme Court, which in a 1969 ruling declared that students have First Amendment rights so long as their exercise of those rights does not interfere with teaching or learning.

In later cases, the courts clarified what these educational disorders were. These included encouraging illegal behavior such as drug use and the use of profane or vulgar language.

In addition, the courts allowed schools to restrict school-sponsored or sponsored publications by students on the assumption that the speech belonged to the school and not to the students.

These cases arose because the Supreme Court saw these rights as broad, but schools tended to take a narrower view. I’ve noticed that rectors and superintendents were quick to ban expressions they didn’t like on the grounds that they were disruptive.

Are blue jeans really an expression of rights?

In general, the Supreme Court has declined to address dress code issues, leaving those issues largely to state courts. This means that there is no binding federal case law and different states have applied the law differently.

However, a federal case is binding on schools in Michigan, Kentucky, Ohio and Tennessee – states under the jurisdiction of the US Sixth Circuit Court of Circuits – although not necessarily in other states. This case decided in 2005 is blue v Fort Thomas Public School District. A parent had objected to a new dress code at the school because, according to the complaint, their child “wants to wear clothes that look good [her]’ that she ‘feels[s] good in’ and who express their individuality.”

Ultimately, the 6th Circuit felt that students could largely wear whatever they wanted as long as it made a statement – as was the case with the anti-Vietnam War armbands. But they weren’t protected by the First Amendment because they were wearing whatever they felt like wearing. The court concluded that the allegation was a “general and vague desire to express her individuality in middle school” and said the First Amendment does not protect every article of clothing a youth may wear on any given day.

expression of gender identity

There were no cases before the US Supreme Court on gender expression and dress. However, a 2001 ruling by the Superior Court of Massachusetts may shed some light on how a court might handle a case.

in the doe v yunitsShe, a student at South Junior High School in Brockton, Massachusetts, had been diagnosed with gender identity disorder — as the court put it, “meaning that although she was biologically born a male, she has a female gender identity.” She attempted to wear clothing consistent with her gender identity. However, the principal sent the student home to change when she arrived in girl’s clothes. The school cited incidents between the student and male students, such as blowing kisses, as disruptive.

The court concluded that the student intended to send a message and due to the hostility she received from the faculty and student body, that message was received. Second, the court found that the school intended to suppress the speech itself, but had no essential government interest in doing so. Eventually, the court found that the student’s clothing as a form of expression was separate from her disruptive behavior.

The school claimed that it would discipline other students who dressed this way. However, the court disagreed because the school argued with the gender orientation: A female-born student wearing the same clothes as this student would go unnoticed, so that student’s clothing should not have been a distraction either.

No real certainty

Ultimately, the style of dress is a form of self-expression, but students’ choices may not always be protected. It’s important to realize that public school students don’t have the same freedoms of speech and expression that adults do in public spaces.

Schools can enforce a dress code when they have a solid justification for doing so, particularly when the rules are legitimately linked to preventing disruption and protecting health and safety. However, as definitions of gender and identity expand, more court cases are on the horizon.The conversation

This article was republished by The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.