Department of Education
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January - 2011
Mandatory Dress Code
Ricki and Teesha Peters
Waterloo Community School District
The Peters seek review of the May 24, 2010 decision of the local board of directors of the Waterloo Community School District to adopt what the District has termed a ''standardized dress code policy'' for students. The Peters contend that the District lacks authority to promulgate a prescriptive dress code policy.
Dress codes fall into two categories: those that prescribe what must be worn (uniform policies) or those that proscribe what may not be worn. Iowa Code Section 279.58 unambiguously confers authority on public school boards to adopt proscriptive dress codes only.
Neither this Board nor any reviewing body of competent jurisdiction in Iowa has had previous occasion to review a challenge to a school dress code since the enactment of section 279.58. We are not unsympathetic to the District
s position that a dress code that goes beyond ''what not to wear'' may have several desirable outcomes for students, staff, and families of the District.
This Decision does not mean that a prescriptive uniform dress code policy is wise or unwise. However, whether section 279.58 should be expanded to give authority to public school boards to enact prescriptive uniform policies must be left to the Legislature to decide, not the local school boards and not the State Board of Education.
The decision of the Board of Directors of the Waterloo Community School District made on May 24, 2010, imposing mandatory district-wide dress code policy is REVERSED. The effect of this Decision is that the Waterloo Community School District standardized dress code policy is void. This Decision does not void local regulation # 504.3-R.