Dress Code Guidelines

In accordance with New York City Department of Education (DOE) policy, students have the right to determine their own attire, except where the dress is dangerous, interferes with the teaching and learning process, or violates the DOE’s anti-discrimination policy. Schools may develop and implement a dress code if it is consistent with DOE policies and the guidelines below. All schools are strongly advised to reexamine any existing dress code practices using these guidelines. Before developing a new dress code or reexamining an existing one, schools should consult with their School Leadership Team, parents, and various members of the student body in order to ensure that different perspectives and identities are considered and respected.

Dress codes must be implemented equally and in a non-discriminatory manner. Schools must ensure that all staff, students, and parents are advised in writing of the dress code, students’ rights with respect to their attire, and consequences for students wearing clothing that violates the dress code.

Dress Code Guidelines

  • When developing dress codes, schools must examine the reasoning and justification for each requirement and consider evolving generational, cultural, social, and identity-norms. Requirements should not reflect or promote generational, cultural, social, or identity biases.
  • Dress codes must not prohibit a student from wearing clothing consistent with their needs based on their protected identities or from maintaining or wearing natural hair or hairstyles that are closely associated with these identities. For example, dress codes should allow:
    • headwear worn for religious observance or disability-related attire; or
    • head scarves, do-rags, beads and other hair accessories, short or long hair, locs, braids, and twists.
  • Dress codes must be gender neutral and applied uniformly. Dress codes may not prohibit a specific gender from wearing particular attire. A school cannot require gender-specific attire for DOE- or school-sponsored programs or activities. For example, dress codes may not:
    • prohibit students who identify as male from wearing skirts, jewelry, or nail polish;
    • require only students who identify as male to wear neck ties for yearbook photos; or
    • require only students who identify as female to wear dresses at graduation.
  • Schools also may not prohibit “distracting” clothing or certain types of clothing that is stereotypically associated with one gender.
    • For example, dress codes may not only prohibit miniskirts or camisole tank tops, which are predominantly worn by students who identify as female.
    • As an alternative, schools may prohibit all students from wearing revealing clothing that does not provide full coverage of private body parts.
  • In order to maintain a positive, safe, and inclusive learning environment, DOE policy prohibits students from wearing clothing in school, on school buses, or during any DOE- or school-sponsored programs or activities that take place on or off school property, which contains language (including slurs), images, or references:
    • which discriminate on the basis of race, color, creed, religion, religious practices, ethnicity, national origin, citizenship/immigration status, gender, gender identity, gender expression, sexual orientation, disability, or weight;
    • to profanity, obscenity, nudity, or sexual acts;
    • to threats of violence, injury or harm, or gang affiliation.

Dress Code Violations

Students who do not adhere to the dress code may be provided with appropriate supports, interventions, and possible disciplinary responses, as set forth in the DOE Discipline Code, and any appropriate adjustments to their clothing. In determining and implementing supports and interventions, the school should consider the totality of the circumstances, including but not limited to the following factors: the student’s family, home, or community situation; the student’s age and maturity; whether there have been prior incidents regarding the dress code and what steps were previously taken to address them; and the social emotional status and needs of the student.

If a student comes to school wearing clothing prohibited by the dress code or DOE policy:

  • The school must notify the student and their parent(s) and discuss the importance of following the dress code and the expectation that the student will adhere to the dress code going forward.
  • In those situations where the school determines that an immediate adjustment of the student’s clothing is warranted prior to the end of the school day (e.g., clothing contains discriminatory language), the school must advise the parent and student and discuss options for conforming with the dress code. Adjustments offered should be appropriate and should not be used in a punitive manner or in a way which makes the student feel uncomfortable. Schools can consider asking the student to turn a shirt inside out, cover or replace the clothing until the end of the school day, or offering the student clean alternative clothing if the school has such clothing on hand.

Related DOE Dress Code Resources

Additional information on related DOE policies can be found in the resources listed below.