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Ask Colleen Grady Your Own Question
Colleen Grady
Colleen Grady, Attorney and Councelor at Law
Category: Education Law
Satisfied Customers: 551
Experience:  Assistant Principal, 17 years in the field of Education
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I'm curious about what the law has to say about dress code

Customer Question

I'm curious about what the law has to say about dress code in the state of Indiana. My family just moved here from Minnesota and I'm shocked at the level what I believe to be sexual discrimination and what my daughter is and is not allowed to wear to school. Just showing her shoulders impede her learning or the learning of others? Does wearing yoga pants impede her learning or the learning of others? In Minnesota there was a particular student who wore a crow on his shoulder. He did not get in trouble because it was considered freedom of expression.
Submitted: 10 months ago.
Category: Education Law
Expert:  Colleen Grady replied 10 months ago.

Hello. I have been an attorney for 27 years and have worked in the field of Education for 17 years. I will help you with your questions.

Expert:  Colleen Grady replied 10 months ago.

Please give me the opportunity to research the Indiana Education law and I will have a response for you in a short time.

Expert:  Colleen Grady replied 10 months ago.

Under Indiana law, the local school district can establish dress codes. Here is what the law says:

Adoption of discipline rules; publicity requirement; discipline policy regulations and guidelines; delegation of authority; rulemaking powers of governing body

Sec. 12. (a) Except as provided under IC 20-33-8-16, the governing body of a school corporation must do the following:

(1) Establish written discipline rules, which must include a graduated system of discipline and may include:

(A) appropriate dress codes; and

(B) if applicable, an agreement for court assisted resolution of school suspension and expulsion cases; for the school corporation. (2)Give general publicity to the discipline rules within a school where the discipline rules apply by actions such as: (A) making a copy of the discipline rules available to students and students' parents; or (B) delivering a copy of the discipline rules to students or the parents of students. This publicity requirement may not be construed technically and is satisfied if the school corporation makes a good faith effort to disseminate to students or parents generally the text or substance of a discipline rule. (b) The: (1) superintendent of a school corporation; and (2) principals of each school in a school corporation; may adopt regulations establishing lines of responsibility and related guidelines in compliance with the discipline policies of the governing body. (c) The governing body of a school corporation may delegate:

(1) rulemaking;

(2) disciplinary; and

(3) other authority; as reasonably necessary to carry out the school purposes of the school corporation.

(d) Subsection

(a) does not apply to rules or directions concerning the following:

(1) Movement of students.

(2) Movement or parking of vehicles.

(3) Day to day instructions concerning the operation of a classroom or teaching station.

(4) Time for commencement of school.

(5) Other standards or regulations relating to the manner in which an educational function must be administered. However, this subsection does not prohibit the governing body from regulating the areas listed in this subsection. As added by P.L.1-2005, SEC.17. Amended by P.L.242-2005, SEC.22; P.L.66-2009, SEC.3.

If you give me more time, I will see if there is case law from the Indiana courts that limit the dress code making authority.

Expert:  Colleen Grady replied 10 months ago.

Dress code case law on the Federal law has centered on First Amendment free speech rights. The leading US Supreme Court case is Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School District, 393 U.S. 503 (1969). In that case the school prohibit students from wearing black armbands as a protest of the Vietnam War. The Supreme Court reversed lower court decisions and found that absent a material, substantial disruption of school operations, the students had a protected right to wear the armbands.

In the Indiana Court of Appeals, in Hines v. Caston School Corporation, 651 N.E.2d 330 (Ind. App. 1995), The Court found it reasonable for a locally elected school board to consider and reflect community values when developing discipline policies, which are themselves a “valid educational function to instill discipline and create a positive educational environment by means of a reasonable, consistently applied dress code.” Id. at 335. However, the court held that such dress codes must also be “within constitutional strictures.”

Another Federal case addresses this issue, Blau v. Fort Thomas Public School District, et al., 401 F.3d 381 (6th Cir. 2004). The court held "The critical point is this: While parents may have a fundamental right to decide whether to send their child to a public school, they do not have a fundamental right generally to direct how a public school teaches their child. Whether it is the school curriculum, the hours of the school day, school discipline, the timing and content of examinations, the individuals hired to teach at the school, the extracurricular activities offered at the school or, as here, a dress code, these issues of public education are generally committed to the control of state and local authorities."

Please let me know if I can help more. If you are satisfied with my help, please rate me.