By Alyssa Schnugg
Superintendent Bradley Roberson sent an email to parents Friday morning in regard to the recent complaints about how the school district’s dress code policy was being enforced, providing the estimated number of students asked to change their attire.
From Tuesday-Thursday, Roberson said 25 students at Oxford Intermediate School; 20 at Oxford Middle School and 75 students at Oxford High School were asked to change their attire due to not meeting the dress code policy.
The complaints from parents started on Tuesday, quickly making their round on social media. Some parents said their children, all girls, were being held back from going to class and being singled out in front of other children due to alleged dress code violations. Many parents felt that the schools were not following the school’s policy and making decisions that were more strict than the actual policy.
The dress code policy was approved in 2020; however, Roberson admitted that it was not being enforced regularly but that the district decided to start enforcing it with more vigor this school year.
Roberson said Friday that principals were reporting “fewer” violations on Friday.
“The administrative team is in daily communication across campuses regarding dress code enforcement,” he said in the email. “Our goal is to continue to refine our process and establish consistency while addressing students as discreetly as possible.”
The minimum dress requirements stated in the policy are:
- Clothing must cover from the top of the shoulder and extend down to mid-thigh.
- Rips or tears in clothing should be lower than mid-thigh.
- See-through or mesh garments must not be worn without clothing underneath that meets the minimum dress code requirements.
- Tight-fitting clothing must be covered with a garment that meets the minimum dress code requirements.
- Shoes must be worn at all times and should be safe for the school environment.
Cheerleaders were told they could no longer wear their uniforms to school, according to several parents. Some principals were measuring shorts and skirts with tape measures while others used the “past fingertips” rule. Girls were being flagged who wore leggings with shirts that didn’t down to their thighs. Other parents said they were told athletic shorts weren’t allowed, regardless of length.
It appears the policy is currently only being enforced in grades six through 12.
However, several parents expressed support for the dress code on local social media pages and applauded the district for starting to enforce it. Some suggested that OSD should move to uniforms to remove the problem altogether.
The school dress code also states that “Students should be able to dress for school in a manner that expresses their individuality as long as it does not interfere with the learning process and health and safety of themselves or other students; and Students should be treated equitably. Dress code should not create disparities or reinforce or increase marginalization of any individual or group.”
Some parents contacted the ACLU of Mississippi about the dress code complaints and in an emailed response, ACLU of Mississippi Executive Director Jarvis Dortch said the OSD was not following its own policy as written.
“Students have been removed or withheld from their classes due to dress code violations; they have been reprimanded in front of other students; first-time offenders have received discipline such as in-school suspension reserved for repeated violations; and the core values emphasizing student individuality, equitable treatment, and avoiding reinforcing disparities and marginalization have been wholly ignored … However, it appears that Oxford High School administrators have elected to strictly enforce the dress code in a potentially discriminatory way against girl students. These actions would run counter to the district’s core values.”
Roberson did not respond to Dortch’s statement.
A group of parents who disagree with the number of incidents Roberson reported in his email have created an online Google Doc where parents can report their child’s dress code violations or warnings.
A high school student-led online petition against the dress code has garnered more than 1,200 signatures.