In response to my observation on student dress codes, a reader writes:

“The dress code issue is always one that is fun to discuss. This is the real root of the problem. We always set the conditions of the discussion backwards. We begin with the student expectation, and then measure adult behavior by how much variance from the (student) standard we allow.

This brings into the discussion an entire line of reasoning that basically says ‘adults’ are superior to, and therefore exempt from lowly student rules. “After all, we are adults and should not be treated as children.”

True, but no one ever drops the other shoe. As adults, we should not be treated like children (as they are traditionally treated, which is as a second class citizen at best.) The real message is that we should not treat children that way either.

The proper way to shape this discussion is to establish clear expectations for professional dress within the adult world. What is necessary, and why. Then hold adults accountable to model at all times the appropriate expected behaviors. Student expectations should naturally flow from established adult norms (not the other way around.) From that point forward, we are setting the expectations, and modeling the goal that we expect our students to strive for. This is more than semantics.

Traditionally, the student code is the only established expectation, and all variance from that norm is the fault of adults who hide behind their adult status. It is much better to set the adult norm, at a higher level, and then all variance is that of the students trying to live up to adult expectations (what a concept, we could build a civilization on this).

This is a simple concept. Students will not follow, if we do not lead. It is sad that many teachers (and even sadder that many administrators) absolutely refuse to lead. They depend purely on ‘authority’ to conduct their business. Authority is necessary, but is a poor substitute for leadership. Is it a wonder our students view us through such a negative lens?”

SC Response
Excellent argument and one that overall, I agree with. Here are my three simple rules on dress code.

1. Make the student dress and appearance code as strict as the teachers / campus / district want it to be.

2. Adults must dress at least as professionally as students.

3. Model and enforce the student and adult expectation, without exception.

Think. Work. Achieve.

Your turn…