What NOT to wear: Understanding school dress codes
Navigating a new school for your children can be a daunting task. Whether you’ve recently moved or your child is just moving up a level, there is always a lot to take in. And what a student is allowed to wear can really throw a family off if they’re used to something different.
Across the Upstate, every school maintains some similar rules. No gang signs, no vulgarity — this is common sense. Nothing with curse words, drug paraphernalia or anything sexual is allowed. Kids can’t wear anything deemed “distracting” to the education of other students either. This means no bare midriffs, plunging necklines, or sagging pants for any students.
Most school districts also have a strict “no sleepwear” rule when it comes to student dress, which means no pajama pants, slippers or the like. Most policies do state, however, that during events like spirit week, some of the rules might be lifted on the occasion of the ever-popular “pajama day.”
Every school researched that did not require a uniform states that clothing choices are up to the individual families to determine appropriateness, but that the school administration ultimately has the final say in whether or not something was to be considered distracting or inappropriate.
In Spartanburg District One, kids can not sport any “unnatural” hair colors such as blue, green or purple. Anderson One also stated that any apparel, hair or makeup that was deemed “distracting” would not be allowed. Other counties, like Pickens and Oconee, did not express such a rule in their district dress codes.
Greenville County Schools, however, leaves dress codes up to the individual school instead of a district-wide rule. Some schools in the district, such as AJ Whittenberg Elementary School, have opted to have students wear uniforms. A solid-colored shirt, generally, navy, black, white or khaki, and chino-style pants, shorts and skirts is common. Those schools listed acceptable options in their individual websites.
Some Greenville schools listed no visible cell phones as part of their dress code, while others did not mention phones at all.
One thing many dress codes differ on is the option of tank tops and the length of shorts and skirts. Oconee County, Spartanburg District 1, and many Greenville schools clearly state no tank tops or sleeveless shirts of any kind are permitted. In Spartanburg District 5, sleeveless shirts have to have straps at least three-fingers-width wide. Pickens upped that to four-fingers-wide, adding that armholes should be snug and not allow the visibility of undergarments.
Pickens is also a little more strict with shorts and skirts, with the acceptable length being one inch above the knee. Oconee County’s dress code says three inches above the knee. Spartanburg District 1 states four inches from the knee for shorts, but only two for skirts and dresses. Spartanburg District 5’s rule was a slightly more ambiguous “beyond the fingertip” rule, making it different for each student.
One school in Anderson District One states, “All skin must be covered from 3” above the knee to the top of the armpits. (‘Pits to Knees’),” in an attempt to cover all their bases.
Regardless of the length, all schools say the length rule was in effect even if the student was wearing leggings underneath. Many schools also state that leggings do not count as pants, but more like tights.
A few high schools included proper prom attire in their dress code policy. One in Greenville outlined what both men and women should wear to the prom, including saying that men could remove their jackets, but not their shirts. Women should not be in revealing dresses, either.
Dress codes can vary school to school if there is not a district-wide policy. They can also vary year to year, so it’s good to refresh yourself and your students with the policies each year before school starts and you do that back-to-school shopping.
Most policies can be found on the district or school websites, or by placing a call to your school.