Know Your Rights

Dress Codes

Deciphering your school’s dress code 

Everyone likes to express who they are by the way they dress, especially when it comes to dances. So here are just a few things you should be aware of while figuring out what you’re going to wear: 

  • Schools can set general dress standards for prom, like requiring formal attire
  • Courts sometimes have found that a school’s concern about safety or disruption is valid, and some have upheld sex-specific dress codes

However, not allowing a female student to wear a tuxedo or a male student to wear a dress may subject the school to legal liability, including a sex discrimination claim under state education laws, antidiscrimination laws, Title IX or the U.S. Constitution

The right to express gender identity through otherwise appropriate clothing is also supported by the First Amendment and state antidiscrimination laws.

In 2011, a high school in Gary, Indiana barred a transgender student, K.K. Logan, from attending prom because she wore a dress. Lambda Legal sued, arguing that the school violated K.K.’s First Amendment rights. The matter was resolved and included an undisclosed amount paid to K.K. as well as revisions to the school district's dress code and nondiscrimination policies. Both now specifically protect LGBTQ students. The school district also agreed to conduct training for the administration and school board members on LGBTQ issues and respectful treatment of LGBTQ people.

If you need more information, contact Lambda Legal at 866-542-8336 or visit www.lambdalegal.org/help.