Among the many problematical issues of today’s school is the dress code. Left with no guidance, teenagers will wear the latest fashion and attempt to imitate their admired celebrities without distinguishing that there is a difference between posing a la risqué for the camera and making an acceptable presentation for the setting in which they will be.

Any working teacher will tell you there has to be a dress code. But there are so many issues involved with that:

  • Fairness: Male and female fashions differ. Usually, when males present an issue, the garment is acceptable but they are wearing it in an inappropriate manner. Making them wear their clothes as the clothes were designed to be worn corrects the dress code violation.
    • But often, with females the garments themselves are not acceptable. There is no way they can wear certain fashions without being inappropriate.
  • Slut shaming: Far too often, dress code restrictions for females are justified by the fact that they ‘distract the boys.’
  • Body types: Often, dress code enforcement relies upon rules of thumb that discriminate against certain body types. For example, females are told that the hem of their garments must be below their fingertips. But that works against girls with long arms.

I gave up on dress code about a year ago when I sent two girls to the office for the same type of shorts that clearly violated the dress code. One came back with a dress code referral; the other was given a pass. Same garment; different results. I was done.

There is no easy answer other than uniforms, but as I ponder the issue, I realize we are missing the larger lesson we need to teach our teens: how to dress appropriately for the environment they will be in.

It’s about promoting an ethos versus setting rules. What we want is something along the lines of business casual on a kid level. How do we get that across?

The only way is to get the kids to buy in. Take the ban on swimwear. Well, obviously, we would know when females are wearing beach bikinis, but males? There is little difference between a pair of shorts made of artificial fabrics, sports shorts of the same, and swimming trunks. It’s not merely the lack of a zipper that marks swimming trunks; it would be the inner liner.

Does anyone really want to walk up to a boy, put a hand into his waistband, and pull outward to see if he is wearing underwear or merely hanging in a liner?

Didn’t think so.

Similarly, who wants to do a conclusive check to see if a girl is wearing a bra or not?

Not this teacher, grumpy and old as he is.

We need the children to police themselves. They buy in to the expectations and then, not that some won’t push the boundaries, but through social pressure, they will take care of it.

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