There have been numerous stories in social media pulled from the news regarding dress codes and who supposedly is violating them in public schools. These stories usually focus on the sexist or racist policies or sexist/racist implementations of vague policies and I usually agree with most of what they say.
We read about African-American girls’ natural hair is being disgraced and disallowed. We read about many minority girls and boys whose choices of colors are questioned and assumed to be gang-related. We read about girls who are sent home because their choices of clothing are deemed to be “too distracting for the boys,” as if the boys’ mental states are their responsibilities.
What is the world are kids wearing to school these days?
image from sunshinemaryandthedragon.wordpress.com
When our public schools first relaxed the dress codes, I had just started high school (tenth grade, St. Louis County, Missouri, 1969). When I say “relaxed,” I mean abandoned. We went from being sent home for having skirts that were “too short” and only being allowed to wear pants on “pants day” for girls to there being NO RULES at all. One year, almost a nun. The following year, could be a hippie, harlot, burlesque dancer, athlete, beatnik intellectual or whatever we wanted, costume-wise.
It has been a downhill slide ever since, except for those schools that read the research which claimed that youth dressed in ad surrounded by those wearing more “respectful” and less “distracting” clothing learned “better.” These schools decided to incorporate uniforms to dispense with the entire parade of values, class conflicts, racism, sexism, gang colors and underwear displays most schools were dealing with by then. I applaud them, even though I am sure most of the kids hate the uniforms. It is much simpler, cheaper, and easier on everyone to have school uniforms.
image from galleryhip.com
However, when schools don’t cover the costs of uniforms for indigent families, what then?
Or, when schools don’t utilize uniforms, we have the current chaos involving underwear displays by many, questionable appropriateness of attire, skin in usually private areas or those reserved for the beach or pool showing in math class, and gang colors’ problems. Then, some have tattoos, piercings, transgender clothing, other body art and hairstyles that bother some adults enormously.
image from http://www.sptimes.com
I wish kids had more self-respect. I wish parents exerted more authority and control. I wish schools would be clearer and more fair in their policies and enforcement. I wish transgender- and homo-phobia, sexism and racism were not in the mix.
No one is granting my wishes, so far.
image from http://www.dailymail.co.uk
We are left with random, biased enforcement that is sexist, racist, individual- or group-oriented (often homo- or trans-phobic) nastiness visited on minors by petty administrative bureaucrats (paid by our tax dollars), all because someone in authority doesn’t like what they’re wearing/not wearing/showing.
image from weblogs.sun-sentinel.com
See? We CAN do better.
If these schools with so many dress code “violation” problems refuse to become more clear, fair and obvious in their codes and enforcement and also refuse to require uniforms, the ACLU or some similar entity needs to step in and protect these kids’ rights to free expression through body art, clothing and hairstyles.
image from teenmomtalk.com
When schools provide more interesting material to view, interact with and learn–more important things to think about and see–than each other’s attire, students will find attire to be less distracting. There is that.