Explaining a Dress Code to 87 Holden Caufields
May 16, 2014 1:20 PM Subscribe
I'm a principal at a therapeutic high school and my students are railing against our school dress code now that the warmer weather is here.
What's happening is that female students will be approached by female staff and the males vice versa, they are told their clothing is in violation of the school dress code, and they are given an opportunity to change/cover up.
If the student refuses to comply with the dress code, they serve an in-school detention during lunch. If it happens twice, parents are called.
But the kids are revolting. Literally. And in every sense of the word.
This is a school for kids with emotional disabilities, so they are generally much more argumentative than neurotypical teens.
The dress code is pretty standard:
no clothing with alcohol or illegal drug references
no bare midriffs
no underwear showing.
Today we had an incident where a female student was wearing a half-shirt with her entire midriff on display. A female staff member pulled her aside 1:1, reminded her of the dress code, and told her she needed to cover her bare midriff or she would receive a detention. She showed her a copy of the dress code.
The student went off on a rant. About freedom to wear what she wants, about ridiculous rules, about her personal rights, about choosing to not participate in slut shaming and rape culture.
Within minutes I had 4 teenage boys with their shirts pulled up, refusing to pull them down. Then more girls doing it. It was insane. Kids yelling at staff, kids getting upset.
So, I gave all the kids a homework assignment to write up all of their concerns about the dress code and I told them that the administrative team will meet with them and hear all of their concerns and we will discuss them.
But here's the thing: the rationale behind the dress code is that there are certain societal standards to which we all adhere as a sign of respect for others.
That's really all we have.
I do not want to go into battle with a plethora of angry, disenfranchised teens and honestly, I don't want to spend too much time trying to get across a point which ultimately comes down to societal rules and "because I said so."
I also don't want to see anyone's thong. Or belly button piercing.
What would be the most effective way to get a gang of angry, emotionally challenged teenagers to understand there's a dress code, it's not asking for much, so please live with it?