In December 2022, the Laguna Beach Unified School District Board of Education adopted a Board Policy (5132) for Appearance Standards to ensure that student dress codes across the district reflect our commitment to maintaining safe and inclusive schools. In support of this, Thurston Middle School conducted a year-long inquiry cycle to review and update our existing student appearance standards (i.e., dress code).
Our objectives were to analyze historical practices, review research, and gather feedback from the various segments of our school community, ensuring our methods remain inclusive, equitable, and supportive of a productive learning environment. In our review of historical practices, we found that female students were 10 times more likely to receive a dress code violation than male students due to gender-specific dress code language (e.g., spaghetti straps, strapless shirts, bra straps, etc.) that resulted in the inequitable enforcement of dress code.
Based on these findings, we partnered with educational consultants to design a series of community engagement sessions to unpack the complex issues surrounding dress codes in schools. During each session, participants shared and reviewed a wide range of resources while openly discussing their individual experiences, addressing themes of equity, inclusivity, maturity, social pressures, respect, empathy, and confidentiality. The year-long process was both demanding and fruitful, as it provided a platform for our community to express their diverse ideas, values, and interests.
Although the values represented were diverse, collective values and themes emerged from these discussions:
- We value the importance of equity, inclusion, respect, and confidentiality.
- We value a fair process, honoring self-expression, and supporting appropriate attire that reinforces school safety and a positive school culture and climate.
- We value a practice that assumes good intentions and is free from assumptions regarding the choice of clothing.
- We value the supportive partnerships between parents, students, and staff in our collective efforts to teach and reinforce our appearance standards.
- We value classroom instruction, where teachers and students may focus on teaching and learning, rather than addressing appearance standard violations.
These collective values provided a strong foundation that fostered our final draft of the 2023-24 Thurston Middle School Appearance Standards. We ask you to please review the document as a family, in preparation for the new school year.
Please keep in mind, this is an ongoing process during which we will regularly review and evaluate our progress. In addition, we are dedicated to working with families and ensuring students are supported through this transition. As you know, we maintain an open-door policy and we will thoughtfully consider any feedback and additional perspectives to continuously improve how we serve and support our students. You can reach me at email@example.com.