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article imageCrime & Punishment: Dress Code Violations In Public Schools

By Nikki Weingartner     Oct 9, 2008 in World
School dress codes, you either love them or hate them. However, wearing them is imperative at various schools, and violations of those rules bear consequences. But do some school districts take the punitive aspect of minor violations a bit too far?
Schools are a place for learning and extreme distractions can actually hinder an educator's ability to teach. In response to certain distractions, many districts across the country have cracked down on existing dress codes and some even revamping the code to include very specific uniform style attire only.
However, is zero-tolerance a good tool to measure these violations? Sure, we hold children accountable to rules but do we cut off the proverbial hand when a child takes candy out of the jar? Most parents and child advocates do not. Teaching children to follow the rules is more than just a punitive affair. They are children: inquisitive and boundary testers by nature.
They need reasonable consequences for their actions and when it comes to dress code violations, the response should be no different.
In a story on October 2 in New Mexico, a young middle school girl who is being called a "good student and not a troublemaker" was suspended for 3-days for a dress code violation. There was no cleavage or excess skin shown due to a mini-skirt that was too short. The offense?
Her shirt was untucked.
School policy requires a parent-teacher conference prior to any suspension but the 12-year-old's mom was never notified and school officials say that it is their right to set their own policies, according to a local news report. Eighteen children have been sent home for three day suspensions for code violations and the principal of the school states that "I've told the kids, 'We've been in school eight weeks now, teachers have individually reminded you, I have individually reminded you.' So any student caught not following the dress code will have consequences leading up to suspension."
Other suspensions are just as odd or harsh, like a young girl at Lamar High School in Houston who was sent home for the day for wearing Khaki coloured pants and not Khaki fabric pants. The school's policy states that: "All students must wear a blue or white Lamar polo shirt and only khaki uniform pants and skirts. Decorative stitching and outside patch pockets are not allowed. Uniforms must not be excessively tight, loose or baggy and must be worn at the natural waist."
And in another incident reported this year where students were forced to wear the scarlet letter "A" for abstinence because they were violation of dress code. The offending attire for one middle school girl? A plain black t-shirt and denim pants. Another school in Texas suspended several students for wearing a popular belt.
Sure, these incidents are violations of the rules but does the punishment fit the crime? Is it considered fair? In one of the stories, the reporter discusses how they directly witnessed students in obvious violation of dress code and yet they were walking around on campus. I wouldn't call that fair.
Recently, an Ohio district suspended around 30 kids for protesting their dress code. The kids wore "banned" hoodies to school.
Distracting classroom behaviour and apparel makes it extremely difficult for a teacher to do his or her job. That is a given and for many who teach public school, they respect the need for maintaining boundaries within the system. Facial piercings, mohawks, green hair, pot leaf t-shirts and politically charged or biased attire all serve to create conflict in what should be a neutral environment.
In some areas, children cannot afford fancy or expensive clothes and uniforms have given them a more neutral playing field. In others, gang symbols in the form of a belt buckle, a religious medallion or other common element have created such a distraction in the class that some schools are being run amok by delinquents who care not if they obtain an education.
Dress codes encourage neutrality and help maintain some type of basic order in the classroom and on campus. Not extreme control or loss of individuality but just enough to minimize the external distractions so that teachers can do their job. However, for some schools, it appears that the code has been taken well out of context.
The punishment does not fit the crime.
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