With outcries over school dress codes emerging across the country, local parents and students are beginning to recognize the negative effects of what they believe to be inherently discriminatory guidelines disguised as school dress codes. The parents of Tuscaloosa City Schools started a petition that is gaining traction in the community.

"We, the parents and students, are petitioning the Tuscaloosa City Board of Education to make changes to the current school dress codes," the Change.org petition read. "Dress codes are meant to create a safe, positive learning environment in schools, but too many of them have the opposite effect."

The petition argues that dress codes usually target female students and students of color and shames them at an already vulnerable time in their life. Worse, the petition stated, is punishment for breaking the dress code often results in students missing instructional time in class.

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"Calling students out for dress code violations has a negative impact on class time, self-esteem and relationship building with teachers and administrators," the petition said.

The parents feel finding stylish yet "appropriate" clothing which meets dress code guidelines is next to impossible, especially when their young children are quickly going through bodily changes at this stage in their lives. Further, dress codes in Tuscaloosa are different at every school, even within the same grade level, and tend to cause confusion and anxiety for families trying to abide by these rules.

Female students often resort to wearing jeans or leggings in summer weather, which in Alabama is common, uncomfortable, and likely unsafe with temperatures that can reach triple digits.

The progressive petition goes as far as to say dress codes promote "victim-blaming and negative or distorted body imaging."

"Our policies, including the dress code policy, are reviewed annually in advance of seeking board approval for the "Parent/Student Code of Conduct and Resource Guide/Drug Screening Policy," said Lesley Bruinton, the Director of Public Relations for the Tuscaloosa City Schools Board of Education.

Bruinton added that the board can "certainly bring this consideration to that review."

The petitioners were moved enough to create a solution to this problem, one without discriminatory guidelines or targeting. The Parents of Tuscaloosa City Schools introduced a new form of dress policy: a "Dress Code Philosophy."

This is an idealistic and aspirational approach to monitor how students dress in school.

"Dress code should support equitable educational access and be written in a manner that does not reinforce stereotypes," the philosophy states. "To ensure effective ... enforcement of this dress code, school staff shall enforce the dress code consistently and in a manner that does not reinforce or increase marginalization or oppression of any group based on race, sex, gender identity, gender expression, sexual orientation, ethnicity, religion, cultural observance, household income or body type/size."

Click here to learn more about the Dress Code Philosophy and view the petition.

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