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Dressed for school success

Austin district's new dress code opens up clothing possibilities

Nicole Villalpando

Are you ready, Central Texas?

Our kids are heading back to school in the next few weeks. Here, we offer information about navigating the new dress code, tax-free weekend, a shopping guide, and a list of school start dates.

This year, the world of back to school clothing shopping has new possibilities for kids attending Austin Independent School District schools. Over the summer, parents learned about the new dress code adopted by the district.

Our back-to-school guide follows this dress code. Check your own school district's guide to see if your child can wear clothes like these, especially athletic wear, tank tops, hats, hoodies and shorter skirts and shorts.

In many ways, Austin's dress code is much more simple. There's no more searching for the elusive shorts or skirts that are long enough. No more questions about athletic gear or leggings or tank tops.

The code has four basic rules:

1. Certain body parts must be covered at all times by a material that is not see-through. The district lists these as abdomen, genitals, buttocks, breasts and nipples.

2. Students must wear:

• A shirt that touches the waistband in the front, back and side. (This does away with the question about crop tops. They are one of the few things on the "no" list.)

• One of these: pants, skirts, shorts, leggings, sweatpants or a dress. (No more measuring skirts and shorts. No more question about athletic wear and leggings.)

• Shoes

3. All of these are OK as long as they don't violate rule No. 1.:

• Religious headwear

• Hats (and they can face any direction as long as the ears and face are visible to staff)

• Hoodies (including wearing the hood if staff can see your face and ears)

• Fitted pants like leggings, yoga pants and "skinny jeans"

• Ripped jeans as long as the butt, groin or underwear aren't showing

• Tank tops, including spaghetti straps

• Halter tops

• Athletic attire

4. Students cannot wear clothing with these things:

• Violent language or images

• Depiction of drugs or alcohol or any prohibited substance or illegal activity

• Hate speech

• Profanity

• Pornography

• Images or language that are hostile or intimidating to a protected class or marginalized group

• Shows off undergarments, except waistbands or straps

• Swimsuits, unless required for class, athletic practice or field trip

• Accessories that are dangerous or could be a weapon

• Anything that obscures the face or ears unless for religious reasons

So, what happens if your child is in violation of the dress code?

The fifth principle of the code is about enforcement:

Students will only be removed from the school spaces if they are violating No. 1 or No. 4 above. Those students have three options to not leave school:

• Put on their own dress-code compliant clothing.

• Wear provided temporary school clothing to be dress code compliant.

• Call their parents to bring dress-code compliant clothing.

Dress code enforcement, the new code says, should not be related to racial identity, gender, gender identity or expression, sexual orientation, ethnicity, culture, religion, household income, body size or type or body maturity.

The code says that there will be no more "shaming," which includes:

• Requiring students to kneel or bend over to make sure clothing fits

• Measuring straps or skirt length

• Asking for students to explain their clothing in front of others

• Calling out students for perceived violations in public

• Accusing students of "distracting" other students with their clothing

The new code came after complaints that the old code was racist and sexist.

If a parent thinks their child has been discriminated against for dress code, they should call the Office of School Leadership at 512-414-4820.

Remember that parents also have a say in what their kids wear to school. If you're not comfortable with spaghetti straps or tank tops, you get to make the call. If you'd rather your child not wear ripped jeans or leggings, you get to not buy them. With middle school boys, especially, we recommend athletic wear that has a drawstring to avoid a pantsing incident (where one kid pulls down another kid's pants).

Now that you know what to wear, are you ready to go back-to-school shopping?


Here are some tips gathered from parents and teachers.


Elementary school

• Follow the class list. Go onto your school's website or check your big box stores and grocery stores to see if the lists are there. Don't deviate. If the teachers have designated a particular brand, it's because they know that brand is of good quality. They've experimented with others and been disappointed.

• Don't personalize. Many elementary school teachers have kids deposit all of their supplies in big bins by type of item. Don't write your child's name on it or get fancy with a specific notebook. Imagine the meltdown when your child realizes that the unicorn notebook has been given to someone else in the class. Save special items for lunchboxes or backpacks or items they are going to keep at home. Do label those lunchboxes, backpacks and any jacket they might bring to school.

• Buy extra supplies to keep at home. We often think of the official class list, but what about the homework and projects that get done at home? This is a great time to stock up on printer paper, printer ink, notebook paper, extra composition books, pens, pencils, markers, crayons, colored pencils, rulers, erasers, scissors, glue sticks, staples, construction paper and white poster board. This helps cut down on the late-night run for supplies when the project is due the next day.

Middle school and high school

These are tricky lists because you won't receive them until the first time they attend a class and each teacher wants something different. Check the school website to see if there are recommendations. Ask parents of kids a year or two older than yours about what their kids needed for that grade. Ask specifically if kids use lockers for school, PE or band, etc., and what kind of lock they can use.

A lot of guessing will be done before school starts, but these are items that you probably could buy in advance for school and home:

• College-ruled notebook paper

• College-ruled spiral notebooks

• College-ruled composition books

• Folders with pockets and brads

• Binders in 1-inch and 2-inch widths

• Colored pencils

• Pencils

• Pens

• Erasers

• Rulers

• Glue sticks

• Scissors

• Graphing calculator if they are taking algebra or higher math. (Hack: These calculators can be expensive — $80-$100 for a good one. Many parents of kids who have flown off to college or are no longer in higher-level math have these sitting around and would love to give them to you. Also check around the Goodwills near the University of Texas area for them.)

Bring your patience. Every year there is a particular item on some teacher's list that no one would have guessed in advance and seems to be sold out at every store the first week of school. Also note that most teachers will give you at least a week before you have to have all of your supplies. As long as you send a kid with paper and pencil, all should be fine.

Extra tip: When the school supply section at Target or Walmart is decimated on the second day of school, check out a drugstore such as Walgreens or CVS or a dollar store. They often still have supplies. Not finding anything? Order online and save yourself more aggravation.


Teachers always need more than the class list they supply. And they often run out of items in their classrooms by January.

RELATED: What do teachers really want?

Here are some things you could stock up on throughout the year to give to teachers:

• Printer paper

• Printer ink (if you know what kind they use)

• Pencils

• Pens

• Glue sticks

• Dry-erase markers

• Tissue

• Hand sanitizer

• Cleaning wipes for desks and tables

• Gift cards for big box stores to buy supplies throughout the year

RELATED: Teachers offer what you should do now to get ready for back to school


Before you shop, take inventory. Assess last year's clothing to see if it still fits or has stood the test of time.

Consider growth. Buy one size up for anything that needs to last past October if your child is still growing.

Buy clothes that work for Texas' two seasons: Those seasons are "jacket weather" and "hot." Every year, a cold snap hits and kids are sent to school in shorts and T-shirts because last year's pants and sweatshirts no longer fit. Stock up with a few winter items now to not get caught in the cold.

Go for comfort over cute. Can they wear those clothes on the playground? Are those shoes comfortable to walk the middle school hall?

Don't forget about PE or extracurricular activities. What shoes and clothing will they need for those?

Pay attention to your school district's dress code. If your district is still measuring shorts and skirt lengths or outlawing spaghetti straps, pick things that won't get your kids sent home.


Go for functional. Boy, those cute sequined animal backpacks and lunchboxes are cute, but picture a thousand sequins coming off one by one all year long. Choose something sturdy rather than shiny. Consider how well it's made if you want something that will last the whole year.

Find the right size. It should not go below your child's waist. Also, a bag that is too large becomes an opportunity to overfill it. Look for a bag that is large enough to carry what they need to bring but not so large that they are packing the house and bringing it to school.

Choose one that is designed for the back. Look for it to have a padded back and two wide shoulder straps. A strap that goes across the chest can also help get weight off the back.

RELATED: How to choose a backpack

Think about weight. The bag itself should be light.


Consider size. Choose ones that are large enough for all their nutritional needs but not so large to be unwieldy. Can it fit inside the backpack, or will they carry it separately or attach it with a carabiner?

Consider insulation. Can you put an ice pack inside without it sweating to the outside? It will be hot for months of the school year, and not all schools are well air-conditioned for safe food storage.

Consider durability. Is it made to last? Is it easy to clean? Will you be looking for a new bag in January because this one is just gross or falling apart?


Summer is almost over, and it feels like it just began.

Plan now for that first day of school. It might surprise you. Note: Austin Independent School District is starting on a Tuesday this year. Hays Consolidated is starting almost two weeks ahead of last year.

Many districts also have back-to-school events you might want to check out.

Check our list:

Aug. 14





Lake Travis

Lago Vista

Liberty Hill


Aug. 15


Hays Consolidated




Round Rock



Aug. 19




Aug. 20

Austin (Back to School Bash, 8 a.m. to noon Aug. 3, Palmer Events Center)

Dripping Springs ISD

Hutto (Back to School Rally, 8 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. Aug. 10, Hutto Memorial Stadium)

Aug. 21


Johnson City

Marble Falls

Thrall (Meet the Tigers Ice Cream Social, 7 p.m. Aug. 9, Tiger Stadium)

Aug. 26

Del Valle


San Marcos Consolidated

Smithville (Meet the Tigers, 7:15 p.m. Aug. 22, Tiger Stadium)

Plan ahead for tax-free weekend

Tax-free weekend is coming. That’s the three days before school starts — Aug. 9-11 — when you won’t have to pay sales tax on school supplies, clothing, diapers, shoes and more.

Before you go hog wild loading up your shopping cart, remember to ask yourself: Is this really a good deal?

Tax-free means you’re saving 8.25%, and if that’s on top of already low sales prices, it could be a good deal. However, sometimes retailers will end a sale during tax-free weekend or they will wait until after it’s over to put something on sale. The real sale price can be the better deal.

Also know that when you’re shopping — especially if the kids are in tow — things might end up in your basket that are taxable, not on sale and not a good deal.

What’s tax-free Aug. 9-11?

School supplies: binders; backpacks and book bags; calculators; cellophane tape; blackboard chalk; compasses; composition books; crayons; erasers; folders — expandable, pocket, plastic and manila; glue; highlighters; index cards and index card boxes; legal pads; lunchboxes; markers (including dry-erase markers); notebooks; paper; pencil boxes and other school supply boxes; pencil sharpeners; pencils; pens; protractors; rulers; scissors; writing tablets

Clothing: most clothing; socks; most shoes; ties; coats; pajamas; swimsuits; uniforms; underwear; sports jerseys; sports hats

Others: adult and baby diapers

What’s not tax-free?

Athletic items: sports shoes such as cleats or fishing boots; sports equipment; sports clothing only used for the purpose of a sport (so not jerseys, swimsuits, sweatpants and yoga pants)

Sewing items: fabric, buttons and zippers

Accessories: all accessories including jewelry and watches

Bags: purses; luggage; wallets and briefcases; or more than 10 backpacks

Any item that is more than $100

RELATED: Which store has the best deals on school supplies?