The Winona public school board will discuss in the coming weeks the district’s student dress code, in an attempt to curb possible bias against specific student populations.
At a meeting in March, two Winona State students who volunteer at the high school expressed concerns with the district’s policy that regulates dress code, specifically the portion prohibiting “miscellaneous headgear,” which they said unfairly targets African American students who wear headwraps or do-rags.
Board member Allison Quam shared those concerns and on Thursday brought forth a draft form to create a dress code task force, which would consist of a board member, administrators, classroom teachers and non-classroom staff, and family and community representatives.
“I want to create a task force of people who don’t normally have a voice, to make sure we listen to people who these types of policies typically hurt,” Quam said at the March meeting. “It might make people uncomfortable, but that’s OK ... that is how we learn.”
The board will likely add three student representatives, from the middle school, the high school and the Area Learning Center, to the task force, though more discussion will come at the June 6 meeting.
Currently policy 504, labeled “Dress and Appearance” in the student handbook, is mostly adopted from state language laid out by the Minnesota School Boards Association.
Quam said she ran the language of the proposed volunteer form by sociologists well-versed in the topic. The stated goal in the draft proposal is “to revise policy 504 so that it supports students in growing a positive self-image and each student’s uniqueness, enhances their academic growth, and includes language that removes the opportunity for bias to influence the enforcement of the policy.”
The board will firm up task force details and participation guidelines at its June 6 meeting.