Texas Schools Reverse Course on Dress Code Policies Over Discrimination Claims

Some Texas schools have dropped their gender-based dress code policies after parents challenged the rule publicly, claiming discrimination, reports The Texas Tribune.

A Houston-area school district two weeks ago reversed its policy that prohibited male and nonbinary students from wearing long hair more than a month after a lawsuit accused the district of violating Title IX and students’ 14th Amendment protections.

Last August, a judge ruled that the hair policy at Barbers Hill High School in Mont Belvieu was discriminatory after two Black students were suspended earlier in the year over the length of their dreadlocks.

Raymond Mays Middle School in Troy last April changed its dress code and introduced a more gender-neutral policy that specifies that hair should be worn at a certain length or limited to specific styles based on gender after a mother publicized her son’s case on social media.

“He was getting pulled out of class daily, sometimes by multiple teachers, and examined like he was an object,” said Hope Cozart of her son Maddox after he was told he needed to cut his hair because it was too long. “One time they called in three different people to examine his head to make sure that it was OK for him to be in class.”

“For many years, [dress codes] were sort of a set it and forget it [policy] for school districts,” Joy Baskin, director of legal services for the Texas Association of School Boards, told the Texas Tribune.

“They had set their policies or procedures in their handbooks and left them in place for many, many years without reexamination, but in light of current challenges and attention being brought to dress and grooming, I think it’s been recently an area of greater attention.”

Texas school district policies include dress codes in order to “instill discipline,” “prevent disruption,” and “teach grooming and hygiene,” according to the Tribune’s review of those rules.

“I do believe that how students dress can help set the environment for a good educational experience, so they’re focusing on their studies instead of the latest trend or fad,” Troy ISD Superintendent Neil Jeter told the news outlet.

Baskin said Texas stands out in terms of the national conversation for a number of reasons. “We have growth in Texas that causes places that were once rural to become more suburban, and our rapid growth or demographic change has allowed really there to be more transitions and more awareness brought to these issues,” she said. 

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