Mission schools adopted a new, temporary dress code that went into effect immediately and will be in effect until the end of the school year. Although the updates mainly focus on comfort and mobility, one particular change made the dress code more gender-neutral.
“The rationale for having the dress code is that we want to have a sense of decorum [and] still have professionalism that we bring to the education profession to be able to be an example for our students and our community,” Deputy Superintendent for Support Services Lorena Garcia said. “However, the goal with these changes…is to provide some level of comfort and relief to the staff and students.”
District leaders received feedback from different stakeholders in the community and consulted with the District Educational Improvement Council to come up with the changes. Superintendent Dr. Carol Perez said they wanted the students and staff to have the opportunity to work on innovative instructional strategies, which can mean conducting lessons in less traditional manners such as on the floor, standing or outside.
The new code offers some leniency to students wearing distressed or tattered jeans, which the district previously prohibited entirely. Also, now students in all grades can wear shorts when only elementary students could wear them before the change. Additionally, both students and staff can wear colored denim jeans now, as opposed to only blue and black.
But among other changes regarding actual clothing, Mission CISD removed a staff rule which stated that men’s hair could not extend beyond the top of the shirt collar. The student handbook did not include a rule about hair length on male students, and their dress code, as a whole, does not contain gendered language.
“Sometimes men, because of religious reasons, will want to have the longer hair. Or also you have gender considerations where somebody might be biologically male but identify as a female. At that point, we should not be restricting them with their hair,” Garcia said. “So that’s something that we said ‘OK, that’s everywhere on the national scene.’ So we’re removing that option on the length. As long as their hair is clean, neatly groomed, combed out of their face and eyes.”
In recent years, several Texas school districts, including high-profile incidents in the greater Houston area, have had legal action taken against them due to discriminatory rules about hair and gender.
And recently, nearby district Sharyland ISD entered a legal dispute with the American Civil Liberties Union of Texas after they suspended a 5-year-old boy for having long hair.
“We have gotten letters from [the NAACP] and different organizations regarding the hair because of the gender situations,” the MCISD deputy superintendent said. “So we thought, ‘OK, let’s just get ahead of it and just remove it to avoid any problems in the future if something like that were to come up.’”
If all goes well with the temporary dress code, administration will make permanent changes to the student handbook for the next school year.
Even though the board of trustees did not have to vote to approve the dress code, the members did express support for the updates. And Garza said administration was proud of the changes.
“We’re excited. So please know that the comments that you have provided from your own experiences, from the people we talk to, we always keep notes,” the superintendent said. “We go back to our DEIC, we go back to the different stakeholders. This is everybody’s voice.”
Correction: Progress Times previously reported the DEIC as the Diversity Educational Improvement Council. It is actually the District Educational Improvement Council.