An issue regarding the dress code policy on accessories at VandenBerge Middle School recently came to my attention and I would like to offer some input regarding the connection between one’s identity and expression in educational environments.

While what took place may not be directly related to a gender non-conforming student (that I am aware of), I’d like to take this opportunity to turn this into a conversation about gender identity and expression in the schools and how fostering an inclusive environment where kids can express themselves and their identity is critical during this developmental stage in their lives.

Girls often wear headbands of all different colors, styles, and designs, but if a boy were to wear one he is asked to take it off. What about the transgender or nonbinary students (because they exist and they exist in your community) who want to dress in a way that aligns more with their identity?

By creating a dress policy that uses a division between boys and girls, it not only reinforces the gender binary, it has the potential to erase many students’ identities and can make going to school feel unsafe and even scary for students, which in turn takes away from a positive educational experience.

Please keep in mind how clothing and accessories are used for gender expression when creating policies in order to help make school more inclusive and supportive of the LGBTQ+ students. — Sophie Petters, Elk River

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