Dress code: one of the most fickle and annoying parts of middle and high school, especially if you’re a girl. While it’s understandable to want to express yourself and look your best by breaking dress code, at the end of the day getting in trouble because you wanted to wear shorts may not be worth it. Here are our do’s and don’ts when it comes to dress code and dressing the way you want to within the parameters your school allows.

DO: Read your school’s dress code/code of conduct

While there are some universal truths when it comes to dress code, they vary from school to school. Make sure you know the explicit rules your school has on what you wear so you know both your freedoms and limitations.

DON’T: Wear a hat or head garment

Hats, bandanas, hoods, and similar headgear are pretty universally banned in schools because they can be a distraction to other students and make it easier for students to mask their face so a teacher doesn’t know if they’re paying attention. If you find yourself reaching for a hat to remedy a bad hair day, try clips, a headband, or styling products like gel. If you have a particularly stylish hat you want to show off to your fellow classmates, find out if your school has a hat day for spirit week and if not, talk to your student government about starting one.

DON’T: Fear wearing your religious headdress because of dress code

According to the Anti-Defamation League, public schools are permitted to accommodate the religious clothing and attire needs of students. This means that yarmulkes, turbans, hijabs, and similar religious garb do not fall under the hat prohibition in schools. If you’re cited or punished for your religious garb, you may want to seek legal action to change your school’s policy.

DO: Be respectful with your clothing

Obviously, clothing with slurs, crude images, and/or references to illegal activity like drinking, doing drugs, or participating in a gang, are strictly prohibited in all schools. Stay respectful of those around you by avoiding controversial and offensive t-shirts.

DON’T: Be afraid to practice your Freedom of Speech

While controversial and offensive articles of clothing are generally prohibited, that doesn’t mean you can’t wear anything that someone might find controversial or offensive – political merchandise, a rainbow flag, or something in protest, for example. As long as it’s not hateful or illegal, your Freedom of Speech should protect you from being punished for expressing your opinions through your outfits.

DO: Bring layers if you’re unsure your outfit fits dress code

Not sure if your shorts are too short, your shoulders too exposed, or your t-shirt too controversial? Bring a jacket or pair of pants to change into to avoid an infraction. This can also help protect yourself from particularly chilly classrooms – win win!

DON’T: Accept bullshit dress codes

If you think your school’s dress code is unfair in some way, don’t just roll over and take it. This applies to bans on “inappropriate” (code: Black) hairstyles, ridiculously restrictive short and sleeve lengths for female students, or religious attire. If you feel like you can’t comfortably be yourself because your school’s dress code threatens that, fight it by filing a complaint with school administration, talking to a trustworthy teacher, organizing a protest, or moving a petition around your school. Just because you, as a student, are subject to your school’s rules doesn’t mean you can be unfairly targeted by them. You do have a voice – use it to make the change you wish to see.

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