DeKalb County updates school dress code after student complaints

Lakeside High School students spoke to the DeKalb County Board of Education about the district's dress code policy at a meeting on Monday, Feb. 13, 2023, in Stone Mountain. The district changed the dress code for this year in line with their requests. (Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com)

Credit: Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com

Credit: Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com

Lakeside High School students spoke to the DeKalb County Board of Education about the district's dress code policy at a meeting on Monday, Feb. 13, 2023, in Stone Mountain. The district changed the dress code for this year in line with their requests. (Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com)

For students returning to DeKalb schools on Monday, district officials hope figuring out what to wear might be a simpler task, thanks to changes to the dress code.

Students at Lakeside High School complained last academic year to the school board and in an op-ed for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that the prior dress code discriminated against female students and students of color.

The district updated the rules for this year in line with what the students suggested, they said in an interview Wednesday with the AJC.

“It felt surreal, because I don’t think any of us expected anything remotely close to what we talked about to happen,” said Anna Katz, a junior at Lakeside High, who was grateful for the changes.

The new rules don’t mention several prior requirements, such as that all shirts have sleeves and that all clothes extend to mid-thigh. Guidelines that prohibited clothes with rips or tears and shoes without heel straps are not included in the new rules.

Updates to the DeKalb County School District's dress code for the 2023-2024 school year omitted rules that prohibited ripped jeans, tank tops and shorts that hit above the mid-thigh. The new dress code states that clothing must cover undergarments and not be see-through. (Screenshot courtesy of DeKalb County School District)

Credit: Photo provided

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Credit: Photo provided

The updated dress code states that tops and bottoms must not be see-through and must cover undergarments. It also prohibits students from wearing pajamas, sleepwear, slippers or house shoes of any kind. Headgear, clothes that disrupt the educational process, or clothes that are vulgar, offensive or pertain to illicit substances or violence are still prohibited.

Additionally, the punishment students could face for violating the dress code is less severe. Previously, students could face in-school suspension even the first or second time they were found in violation of the rules. Under the updated code, it’s a possibility only for repeat offenders.

The DeKalb County School District changed its dress code this year to allow most clothes that are not see-through and that cover undergarments, after a group of Lakeside High students argued the previous rules disproportionately affected female students and students of color. These are two outfits that Hannah Choi, a Lakeside junior, said she would wear to school this year that would previously have not been allowed. (Courtesy of Hannah Choi)

Credit: Photos courtesy Hannah Choi

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Credit: Photos courtesy Hannah Choi

The updated dress code eliminates gender-specific language about some types of clothes and avoids unfairly targeting students from specific cultures or religions, the district said in a message to families Wednesday.

“These changes better align with the evolving societal norms while ensuring the well-being of both students and staff members,” the message stated.

Hannah Choi, a Lakeside High junior who was involved with the push to change the code, said she’s looking forward to not thinking so much about how to avoid getting in trouble for her clothing.

“It’s finally something that isn’t on our minds when we go into the school year,” she said. “You can put that attention elsewhere.”

The new rules will apply to schools districtwide. Druid Hills High junior Basil Ghezzi is looking forward to going into the school year without having to worry about wearing shorts when it’s hot out, or a skirt with a hemline that doesn’t reach their fingertips.

“I have watched other people at school get unfairly picked on for clothing that was deemed inappropriate even though it was perfectly fine,” Basil said. The new rules are “definitely going to change things.”

Basil Ghezzi, a junior at Druid Hills High School, is excited to wear outfits like this one to school this year, thanks to new changes to the DeKalb County School District's dress code. The updates remove a requirement for shorts and skirts to be "mid-thigh" and a requirement for all shirts to have sleeves, among other changes. (Courtesy of Basil Ghezzi)

Credit: Photo courtesy Basil Ghezzi

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Credit: Photo courtesy Basil Ghezzi

District administrators will be trained on the new dress code this month, and teachers will “guide students through the changes during the initial weeks of the school year,” the message to families stated. Administrators will be empowered to exercise judgment about whether a student’s attire is disruptive or poses a safety hazard.

Lakeside High students are hopeful that school staff will be well aware of the rule changes by Monday, and that outdated guidance posted around campuses about what clothing is and isn’t allowed will be removed.

“The next step now is making sure teachers and administrators and basically everyone around the county is aware of the dress code and properly enforces it,” said Lakeside High junior Troy Butler. “Once that happens, I feel like all the problems will truly be lifted off people’s shoulders.”

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