There are a few reasons to be bothered by the Florida dress code bill that just passed a State House Subcommittee.
First, it’s unnecessary. The bill would require all school districts to adopt a dress code that prohibits students from “wearing clothing that exposes underwear or body parts in an indecent or vulgar manner.” But most schools in Florida—like most schools throughout the country—already enforce dress codes. There’s no reason for state lawmakers to be determining what constitutes appropriate attire for Florida students when school officials across the state have already done so.
Second, the bill purports to homogenize dressing standards in a state that is culturally and ethnically diverse. The NAACP Florida State Conference claims that a state-wide dress code would unfairly target young black males. They may have a point. What’s considered inappropriate clothing in one school district might not be considered inappropriate in another—which is why dress codes should be a local, not state, issue.
The third reason to be bothered by the bill is that one of its supporters, committee member Rep. Kathleen Passidomo (R-Naples), defended the state dress code by saying:
“There was an article about an 11 year old girl who was gangraped in Texas by 18 young men because she was dressed like a 21-year-old prostitute. And her parents let her attend school like that. And I think it’s incumbent upon us to create some areas where students can be safe in school and show up in proper attire so what happened in Texas doesn’t happen to our students.”
This is precisely the wrong way to react to a horrific crime. Lawmakers should not be fighting crime by passing legislation that limits the freedom of perceived potential victims. And a state congresswoman should probably not be publically excusing the criminal actions of eighteen men by pointing to the outfit choice of a young rape victim.