In response to posts on dress codes, a reader writes:

“I am going to be upfront and say that I am speaking on this issue from two sides: as a school administrator and as a parent. As an administrator, I agree that implementing a dress code is an important factor in preparing students to meet “middle class job expectations.” I also believe there is a sense of what most people consider “acceptable”dress code standards that allow for the academic day to be carried off in an effective manner. A shirt being tucked in/untucked vs. low-riding jeans with underwear being exposed are on different levels. This is where I think you “pick” the battle.

However, I do think the dress code, the environment, the building appearance, and all the other “ancillary” issues do have to be dealt with simultaneously with the “fundamental” academic issues. My school currently works with Sean and by addressing the “ancillary” issues at the same time as we have been working on the “fundamental” issues, we have seen a tremendous measurable growth in both the students and the staff in their dedication and pride in the appearance and maintenance of the building, along with tremendous growth in academics.

There is one line in a previous poster’s comments that I also agree with to an extent.

“Perhaps we focus on ancillary issues because we simply don’t have the courage to improve our fundamentals.”

This is generally my view of my child’s current administration at her high school. While my daughter has not been sent home yet for dress code violations, numerous friends of hers have been sent home. Usually the violations are skirts or shorts are too short or the jeans have holes in them. If I walked onto her campus and saw the rest of the students dressed in a “middle class expectation” manner, then I would feel confident that her school’s leadership was on track with issuing the violations. Yet, I have walked in and seen students with hair spiked several inches, colored hair, low-riding jeans, “gangster-like” dress, etc.

I have discussed this with her and her friends (students who are in the top 10% of the class), and they “feel” as if the administration does not address the other kids because their leaders are scared to make the “bad kids” mad, so they let them get away with the dress code violations. They believe the leaders know that her group of friends care about their grades and transcripts, and therefore know they will respond appropriately to the administrators issuing violations.

Since fights occur on almost a daily basis at her school, I do think sending home students in the top 10% of the class for dress code violations is not the most valuable way the administrators could be utilizing their time.

This blog often discusses that as leaders we can not lead in fear, and we can not lead by picking just certain issues to address. The standards that are set in place for both ancillary and fundamental issues must be addressed simultaneously for all students to achieve success.”

SC Response
Great observation and argument! There are two things I want to highlight. First, the system does not operate in a vacuum, the ancillary supports the fundamentals and the fundamentals support the ancillary. Ignore either and both suffer. Second, no matter what we think and/or say, the students recognize the “real” system and use it to their advantage. What I find frustrating (and intellectually fascinating) is how a staff can become aggressively blind to the “real” system when it is contrary to adult agendas.

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