About 160 schools in L.A. Unified's central area will be asked to reexamine their dress codes to make sure students are not missing class time because of their clothes.
Roberto Martinez, the district's central area superintendent, is leading the charge after questions raised about an October incident at the Ramon C. Cortines School of Visual and Performing Arts. All the schools in his area, which includes Downtown, will review their dress codes and make sure they align with the district's policy by the end of the school year, according to Martinez.
On a hot fall day, a student named Mary "James" Salazar wore a red dress with thin shoulder straps to Grand Arts, the school's informal name. She says she was told her clothes were too revealing and distracting, and she refused to wear a sweater from lost and found that was offered to her, or to ask her mother to bring clothes. As a result, James said she spent most of the day in the office instead of learning in class.
Administrators at the school in question either did not respond to multiple requests for comment or, through a district spokeswoman, declined to comment on the incident involving James' dress code violation.
Martinez said he would ask all the schools in his area to revisit their dress codes after The Times asked him about a discrepancy between the district policy and that of Grand Arts.
The L.A. Unified dress code policy states that “Students may not be disciplined or removed from class as a consequence for wearing ‘inappropriate’ attire. However, a student may briefly leave the classroom to change clothes.” Schools are allowed to implement their own dress codes and further restrictions as long as they are consistent with the district’s dress code.
What's in a dress code?
L.A. Unified does not collect data on citations or punishment for dress code violations, Martinez said.
Rallying for change
That’s how James' former classmate Angel Fabre sees the world. After she heard about what happened to James, Angel decided to organize a movement called “The separation of dress and education,” inspired by the lesson she learned in school about the separation of church and state.
A month after the incident with James, she and Angel stood outside Grand Arts with friends, holding posters that proclaimed, "I don't have to be wearing anything in order to think" and "End rape culture."