Sabrina Bernadel, a fellow at the National Women’s Law Center, agrees that dress codes are disproportionately restrictive toward women and girls.
“Dress codes are definitely sexist,” she said. “They put the onus on girls to not be distracting or not call attention to themselves instead of putting the onus on all students to respect everyone’s body.”
Ms. Bernadel said that when it comes to students being punished for dress code violations, Black and brown girls get written up the most, followed by Black boys, then white girls, then white boys. For Black girls, the issue is not necessarily around their clothes, but their bodies, which tend to be perceived at early ages as more developed or “adult.”
In the short term, disciplinary actions resulting from getting “dress coded” can lead to less instruction time, hindering academic performance. In the long term, code violations can make girls, and especially Black girls, feel “ashamed of how they express themselves and also what they look like,” Ms. Bernadel said.
The up-to-you policy on mask wearing in Cobb County schools reflects one part of the patchwork of masking policies nationwide. In much of the country, it is up to local officials whether masks are required in schools, and most school districts that require face coverings set the rule for all students regardless of age or vaccination status. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that all students, teachers and staff members in schools wear masks, regardless of vaccination status.
“Cobb County says that parents are best suited to decide about whether their child wears a mask, but that they are not best suited to decide what the child wears on their bodies,” Sophia wrote in a petition on Change.org that has over 2,000 signatures.
“I don’t think you can pick and choose that reasoning,” Sarah Trevino, Sophia’s mother and a lawyer in the Atlanta area, said of the county’s stance that parents can choose whether their children wear masks. “If you’re going to use that reasoning whether to put a strip of cloth over your child’s face, it should be the same reasoning if you’re going to put a strip of cloth over their thigh.”