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Should Students Follow a Dress Code at Home?

Some school districts are banning teens from wearing pajamas during remote learning. Is that the key to keeping students focused—or is it creating stress?

Illustration by James Yamasaki

Many schools in the United States ban kids and teens from wearing pajamas in the classroom. But in Springfield, Illinois, students can’t sport their PJs in their own kitchens or bedrooms either.

This past fall, Springfield Public School District 186 announced that students learning from home because of the coronavirus pandemic are not allowed to wear pajamas while on video calls for class.

Springfield’s schools aren’t the only ones enforcing dress codes for remote learning. Since the pandemic began, thousands of schools across the U.S. have switched to virtual classes to try to slow the spread of the virus. As educators navigate teaching over video conferencing platforms, schools from California to North Carolina are asking students to observe the same dress codes at home as they would on campus.

People in favor of dress codes for remote learning say the rules create a respectful classroom environment and can help students stay focused.

But other people say that school districts have no right to tell kids what to wear in their homes. As long as students keep up with their schoolwork, they argue, what does it matter what they’re wearing? 

Rules Are Rules

With millions of kids in the U.S. now learning remotely, educators face the complicated issue of deciding whether to enforce classroom rules at home. These include policies on discipline, snacking, and how to dress.

Education officials in Springfield say that students should still follow school rules regardless of how classes are held. They point out that students in the school district are not allowed to wear pajamas on campus, so they shouldn’t wear them for virtual classes either.

School rules must still be followed, even when classes are held remotely.

Although district representatives say students won’t be punished for violating the dress code at home, they hope teens “approach remote learning as they would in a classroom setting.” Coming to class dressed properly is a sign of respect for their teachers and themselves, they say.

Lauren Rench, 17, of Orlando, Florida, agrees. “There should be a dress code for virtual learning,” she says. “If students attend classes wearing their pajamas, they’ll be too relaxed.” That, she notes, could negatively affect their schoolwork. 

Schools Don’t Make the Rules at Home

One thing most Americans can agree on is that the pandemic has affected nearly all aspects of daily life. Many people say school districts should recognize that this is a stressful time for families—and prioritize students’ well-being over dress codes. 

Teens “are in no way all in the same spaces physically or emotionally,” Josh Stumpenhorst, an educator in Naperville, Illinois, said in a recent Twitter post. “Let them snack [and] wear comfortable clothes.”

Others say parents—not schools—should set the rules at home.

Parents are in charge at home, so they should decide how their kids dress for class.

“Kids are under the authority of their parents at home,” says Abigail Pickard, 16, of Granger, Indiana. “Schools imposing rules on kids when they are in their own houses is out of the question.”

Another reason not to have dress codes for remote learning, say critics, is there’s no evidence that dressing a certain way helps students pay attention. What’s more, some people argue that it’s often easier to focus when wearing comfortable clothes.

Think It Over

Consider the pros and cons of dress codes for remote learning. Then ask yourself: Should schools require teens to dress a certain way when attending classes from home? Or do other, more effective, ways exist to make virtual schooling a successful experience for students? 

Write About It! What do you think? Write an essay arguing for or against remote-learning dress codes. Support your claim with evidence from the article and your own experiences.

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