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article imageOp-Ed: How detailed should school dress codes be?

By Leigh Goessl     Sep 14, 2012 in Lifestyle
Across the globe many educational institutions impose dress codes, some more restrictive than others. Whatever a district decides, administrators and decision makers should make clear, not unlike any other policies, what they expect.
Schools often determine the uniforms or type of "regular" clothing students can wear. Others may include items, such as hair or jewelry, in their dress code policies.
Digital Journal recently reported the story of Shannon Close, a 15-year-old teenager, who was "isolated" from the rest of her class starting on the first day of school because she had dyed her hair a bold shade of red over the summer. School administrators at the Bryn Hafren Comprehensive School in Wales, had said the teen had violated the school dress code with an "inappropriate style" of hair.
What is an "inappropriate" style?
The question is, what exactly is "inappropriate"? The word leaves the dress code a bit subjective as an article in The Stir pointed out earlier this week.
Jeanne Sager points out the vagueness in Bryn Hafren's policy. She writes, "What the heck does that even mean?!" As they say, one man's trash is another man's treasure. One principal's "appropriate" is another principal's "just this side of harlot."
In the Wales situation, not only does the policy appear to be vague and open to interpretation, the school allegedly did not explicitly state students could not dye their hair. This prompts the question, how would a student, or a parent, determine the level of "appropriate" the school describes if expectations are not clearly outlined?
Outlining school dress codes
According to the U.K.'s Department of Education, are encouraged, but the actual dress codes and uniforms are left to an individual school's discretion. The agency notes "there is no legislation that deals specifically with school uniform or other aspects of appearance such as hair colour and style, and the wearing of jewellery and make-up, and this is non-statutory guidance."
In the Bryn Hafren County Primary School handbook, dyed hair is not addressed, the only requirement associated with hair is "extreme" haircuts.
Extreme Haircuts: The school does not permit children to have ‘extreme' haircuts that could serve as a distraction to other children.
However, what is does "extreme" mean? This stipulation, like hair dye, could be open to interpretation depending on an individual's tastes.
School dress codes in the U.S. and Canada
Across the pond in the U.S. and Canada, many school handbooks also contain dress codes. For instance, in Fairfax County, Virginia, there is a policy where kids need to change or possibly be sent home if dressed in attire deemed inappropriate for the school environment. Fairfax outlines their expectations in its student handbook [PDF]. Whether parents agree or disagree, the expectations are outlined with examples. Dyed hair is not typically an issue.
Port Richmond High School in Staten Island, N.Y. also outlines its dress code and provides specifics. Hair is also not listed as part of the dress code.
To the north, in Canada, the Ontario Ministry of Education clearly outlines what types of dress are and are not acceptable at the school, also citing examples. Hair is also not mentioned, except one statement: "Long hair must not obscure the eyes."
How much input should schools have on attire/hair styles?
Earlier this year, students from a Halifax-based junior high school protested about their school's ban of yoga pants/leggings.
"We've been wearing leggings the whole year, then all of a sudden we're not allowed to, and guys wear pants with their underwear hanging out," says Grade 9 student Darian Mansfield, reported CTV-News.
"It's not showing anything," Grade 9 student Jessica Cole told CTV. "I'm wearing like, a longish sweater and it's not showing anything at all."
Setting boundaries
Some level of a dress code is perhaps warranted, but how strict do they need to be? And also, there's the subjective appropriate "style"? Either way, if such policies are going to be implemented, they should at least be clearly communicated.
Sager had also written in The Stir, "When it comes to setting rules for kids, the more specific you are, the better chance you have of getting them followed. It's a lesson I've learned the hard way as a mom. And it's a lesson more school administrators should take to heart."
Then again, when it comes to education, does the color of an individual's hair really matter when it boils down to it?
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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