SCHOOL DRESS CODES: FOLLOW THEM OR GET THEM CHANGED. THE END.
Originally posted August 17, 2015
School’s back in session, y’all! You know what that means? People (me) complaining about the drop-off line (STOP PARKING YOUR DAMNED CARS IN THE DROP-OFF LINE TO WALK YOUR KIDS INSIDE). People complaining about school lunches (I complain about the TIME of school lunches, because feeding kids lunch at 10:45am when they won’t get another meal until about 6pm is ri-goddamned-diculous). People complaining about testing, and common core, and homework. People complaining that start time should be later (which just pushes the whole day back an hour, defeating the purpose, fyi). People complaining about back-to-school photos (basically, get over it). And, of course, people UP IN ARMS complaining that their precious snowflakes got in trouble for violating the dress code.
Here’s the thing, I agree that dress codes seem to unfairly target girls. Why is that? Because girls’ clothing has a hell of a lot more variety than boys’ clothing, and every time administrators think they’ve covered every possible scenario, someone will show up wearing something that now has to be addressed. What do boys generally wear to school? T-shirts and shorts (or jeans/khakis). Why? Because that’s like…literally their only options. Have you looked around the boys’ section lately? End of the day, their clothes are pretty boring. So, dress codes for boy clothing doesn’t have a lot of bases to cover: Cover up your underwear, wear clothes that fit you, limit the number of holes in your pants, no tank tops. That being said, everything that is directed toward girls’ clothing STILL APPLIES to boys, so if your boy-child goes to school in a dress, it still has to follow the rules. What I’m saying here is that the administrators who have to sit down to write dress codes don’t go into it saying “man, we just hate girls, lets put as many restrictions on them as possible.”
Are some of the dress code rules for girls seemingly unfair? Sure. Do they, in some ways, promote body shaming? No…not really (in my opinion), unless you’re hypersensitive and determined to be offended.
Let’s get down to the core of this, though. Why do dress codes exist? Despite what you may have convinced yourself, they exist to provide students with guidelines for appropriate school attire. Who gets to decide what qualifies as “appropriate school attire?” The people running the schools (aka the administrators). You know where else has dress codes? Everywhere you will ever work. Why? Because in every job you will ever have, you will need to dress in a way that makes you look professional and/or keeps you safe. In most cases, that requires some common sense and erring on the side of modesty. Modesty is not a bad word. Teaching kids that certain situations require certain clothing to be worn (or not worn) is also not a bad thing, and it prepares them for the real world. It’s not about shaming, it’s about providing a standard that everyone has to adhere to. Why? Because boys’ bodies are different than girls’ bodies, and some girls’ bodies are different than other girls’ bodies, so the ONLY WAY TO BE FAIR TO EVERYONE is to enforce a STANDARD.
Some of the verbage being used to defend dress codes is under attack as well, and I like to chock this up to the fact that the people who are in the public eye defending the dress codes don’t really understand how to use their words to defend them properly. For example, “dress codes are in place to eliminate distractions in the learning environment.” I mean, yes, technically they do serve that purpose I guess…but only in a tiny way. That’s not WHY dress codes exist. See above, re: standard.
But people like to think the dress code doesn’t apply to their child. Take, for example, this child. Her parent is adamant that this outfit did not violate the dress code. A cursory glance of the school’s dress code shows that, yes, in fact, it did. I’ll save you the trouble of looking these things up. Here is the outfit the girl wore:
I get it, it’s harmless. This decision seems stupid and there’s nothing wrong with what your daughter was wearing in terms of “appropriate” attire IN MY OPINION. BUT, here is the school’s dress code (I’ve highlighted the violation for you):
I wasn’t a math major, but that shirt is clearly more than 3″ above the knee.
Do I think that there are dress codes that go too far? Yes. Do I think some schools go overboard with how they deal with violations? Yes, but that’s not the focus of this post. Does it get really unfair during warmer months when girls aren’t allowed to wear tank tops or shorts (because you can’t find “appropriate length” shorts in Target, WHICH IS TARGET’S FAULT AND YOU SHOULD ADDRESS IT WITH THEM) and boys can? Yes. Yes it does. Does it seem stupid to make a little girl change her clothes because they technically violate the dress code even though she’s 6 and nothing she wears could possibly be perceived as revealing or sexual? Yes. Yes it does.
Do I support your decision to send your child to school in clothing that violates dress codes, and then get angry when they are sent home for said violation? Nope. Why? Because you were provided with the same parent handbook that everyone else got, and everyone else managed to dress their child in a way that did not violate the dress code. You know why I read the handbook? So I can make sure we’re following the rules.
Say this with me: My child is not above the rules. Allowing him/her to break the rules simply because I/he/she disagree(s) with them only teaches my child that they are above the rules – and they are not.
First off, I don’t really care how old your kid is, if they’re living with you, you get to decide whether or not they wear a certain thing. It’s called parenting. Did they buy it with their own money? I don’t care. They live in your house, you are the parent, and you have the final say. That’ll teach them for wasting money on something they KNEW you wouldn’t let them wear, amiright? (Once they reach adulthood, I would argue that what they wear is ultimately up to them, but you can still deny them free housing if you don’t like it.)
See, this can be such a GREAT teaching moment for you. If you and/or your child feels the dress code is unfair, you can appeal to administrators to change the dress code. You can stage a protest. You can contact your local Congressperson! You can pull your child out of school and homeschool them, if it’s REALLY that big an issue for you. This is America, and you have choices! All the while, you can teach your child what is SO GREAT about living in a country where we have the ability to make change happen – all we have to do is go through the proper channels!
Do I know that there are some historical changes that wouldn’t have happened without breaking the rules? Yes, I have, in fact, heard of Rosa Parks AND the Civil Rights movement. Your child is not Rosa Parks, and her desire to wear something that violates a school dress code WHICH IS NOT INFRINGING ON HER RIGHTS AS A HUMAN BEING is not an equivalent comparison.
Go through the proper channels. Change the dress code. Until then, your child has to follow the same damned rules that everyone else’s kid has to follow.
“But boys can wear blah blah blah” I DON’T CARE. OH MY GOD YOU DON’T REALIZE HOW LITTLE I CARE. FOLLOW THE FREAKING RULES OR GET THEM CHANGED. Quit wasting everyone’s time complaining about them, because it’s not going to make a damned bit of difference to COMPLAIN about them.