In the old days, those ancient times before there was even an Apple II, the PC was not even an ideation in the minds of the boardroom of Big Blue, ensconced in Armonk, New York, when Grumpy Old Teacher’s (GOT) graduation present was a 4-function TI calculator that cost his parents $100 (yes, really) that today you can buy for a quarter, we didn’t have PhotoShop.

We didn’t have the technology for this nonsense: St. Johns County (FL) yearbook advisor alters the photos of 80 girls for alleged dress code violations.

Riley O'Keefe
You be the judge: Is that some bad editing or what?

Here’s one example of what went down. The others are just as bad or worse. Maybe the poor advisor was at home, late at night, fighting a deadline, and with a little too much wine … nope, too far a reach for even GOT.

It’s a fact that dress codes are outdated, driven by outmoded concepts of female modesty, male sexuality, and gender roles.

But it’s also true that this has been going on long before the silicon revolution that brought us computers, smartphones, and digital programs to alter images.

In GOT’s day, it was called airbrushing. Maybe someone couldn’t copy the black top and draw it into other regions, but a talented photographer in the development room could blur out that cleavage the same as they would brush out facial blemishes and other temporary flaws that the hormones of adolescence often produced to the embarrassment of the afflicted.

As others have pointed out, distraction by a ‘flat-belly’ happens to both genders, female as well as male. Teenagers are dealing with new feelings and sensations and, in a time of trying to figure it out, some disguise their reactions better than others. Things happen and we usually call it the process of growing up.

GOT imagines that back in the 19th century, when the skirt of a female was expected to reach the floor, if a girl stretched out her leg and her ankle showed, that would be distracting to males at the time. It’s not what’s showing, but that what’s forbidden is showing.

But how is that ankle the responsibility of the body that owns it? The problem of using distraction as a justification for dress code bans is that it excuses people from having self-control. The impulsiveness of adolescence carries the need to develop self-discipline. Blaming another for one’s lack of self-control delays the development of adult-needed character.

Schools shouldn’t do that even though dress codes are needed. Even as societal mores (there should be an accent over the e–pronounce it morays, but WordPress is being ridiculous about this) change and fashions come and go, most of us can recognize that an attitude of “I can wear whatever I want wherever I want” won’t work in a school.

We are dealing with teenagers, after all, whose developmental agenda includes pushing the boundaries. How else do they learn where those boundaries are? It is the job of adults to set appropriate boundaries, emphasis on appropriate, and that’s where the mischief begins. Or fun, depending on your point of view.

Schools shouldn’t have separate dress codes for males and females. Beyond the vague ‘don’t distract the boys, girls’ rule of the St. Johns County dress code, they had separate restrictions to apply to those who carry an ‘xx’ chromosome and those who have an ‘xy’ one.

Okay for the beach or pool, but not at school.

It’s not easy to spell out a dress code. Male and female fashions are different, sometimes very different.

Take swimwear for example. Simply banning attire that is designed for swimming leads to problems. No one would believe that the female bikini should be worn at school, nor the male Speedo, but the fact is that the same material that is spun out of crude oil (lycra, nylon, and spandex among many others) is used to make swim trunks and shorts.

Speedo Coded Riff Brief – Purple – The Swim Shop
Save it for the swim team, please.

One is okay for school and the other is not? What’s the difference? Swim trunks have liners sewn in and no zipper for the fly. Shorts have no liner but a zipper. Males wearing shorts need to have underwear on. None is needed for swim trunks.

Female swimwear, being designed very differently, doesn’t have this type of distinction.

Anyone getting the problem here? It’s easy to ban swimwear for a female fashion, but for the male fashion, well, how do you determine if there’s a liner? Trust GOT, no one–absolutely no one–wants to look down a boy’s shorts to decide if it’s swimwear or not.

But we seem to have no problem getting that up close and personal with girls. The St. Johns dress code story did not start with the yearbook editing; it began with the school in question pulling girls out of class and demanding they unzip or take off their hoodies so the school could see what they were wearing underneath.

‘One student, who did not wish to be named, told News4Jax a male teacher pulled her out of class and she was told to unzip her jacket in front of people in the main hallway. The student said she had a sports bra underneath her jacket and was told what she was wearing was inappropriate. The student told News4Jax: “I was walked downstairs got it taken which was my bra and was told I have detention.”’

Dress codes are needed. Adults understand that there’s a difference between what they need to wear at work and at home, at church and beach, in the mall and in the bedroom. Schools must set guidelines for students to make the right choices, but they cannot distinguish between male and female, shame students, or be disproportionate in enforcement.

There are good examples of model dress codes. Here’s one that specifies the essential without targeting a particular gender or style. Here is another.

Basically, these dress codes require that the body be covered from armpit to about 3 or 4 inches below the crotch. Upper garments should have straps that go over the shoulders and underwear must be covered. Clothing that advertises violent, sexual, illegal activity including drugs, etc. are not allowed. Other than that, good taste is encouraged in the choice of clothing that children wear to school.

That’s it.

Isn’t that all we need?

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