The reason for dress codes
Rarely does a day go by that I’m not grateful I no longer have to deal with the pain of enforcing dress codes in public schools.
I remember wishing to be delivered from this torture multiple times a day when I was a high school teacher and was bombarded by skin-tight, low-cut tops, micro-mini skirts or shorts, and low slung pants.
Never mind the fact that teachers have to play avert-the-eyes in order not to inappropriately eye students. Enforcing the dress code was a nightmare.
Not because it was hard to tell, to paraphrase my local high school’s “dress guide,” when student clothing disrupted the educational atmosphere or constituted a threat to the health, safety or decency of all students. But because the really inappropriately dressed students put up a major fuss — cutting into precious few daily instruction minutes and getting the rest of the students riled up — when you sent them to the dean’s office to cover up.
And, perhaps worse, not all teachers bothered with the hassle of enforcing the dress code. This set some faculty — especially men holding classes late in the school day — up for the inevitable situation of having someone waltz into class with profanity writ large across a T-shirt or a too-short skirt and then protest that “none of my other teachers had a problem with it” when the student was ordered to go to the office.
Talk about stopping the “educational atmosphere” dead in its tracks.
This came to mind the other day when I ran across yet another full-throated, feminism-cloaked defense of the “right” of young girls to wear bun-baring yoga pants to school.
In “Are Yoga Pants Really the Problem?” Alexandra DiPalma trots out the old women’s rights/men’s lechery defense of wearing provocative clothing and insists on applying it to the educational setting.
“Yoga pants appear to be having a dangerous effect on male students,” DiPalma writes on the website Fusion. “So dangerous that school administrators across the country are adopting new dress code policies that ban the popular workout/fashion pants, along with other form-fitting legwear.
“The argument for keeping yoga pants out of schools basically goes like this: how’s a guy supposed to focus on school when there are girls walking around wearing tight pants?”
No, that’s the argument some women choose to protest clothing regulations that put order in school buildings and classrooms over their personal fashion statements.
Let me tell you that “guys” are not the only ones who get distracted by inappropriate attire.
Girls in hallways and classrooms get jarred out of their tenuous-at-best academic mentality when someone strutting their stuff comes by and students of both sexes react with their typical shrieks, hoots, catcalls and hollers — behavior that is decried as predatory, misogynistic and frightening in other contexts.
And, lest you believe that all female students have bought into the supposedly sexually empowering message that Glamour magazine, Miley Cyrus’ twerking and Lena Dunham’s “Girls” push, some young women are intimidated, offended or feel peer-pressured by others in hyper-sexualized dress.
And no teacher, guidance counselor or school administrator should have to deal with clothing-related drama during a school day. Days that — in wealthy, middle-class or low-income schools — include responding to threats of violence, drug issues, bullying and a host of other social problems that students bring to school because they don’t get addressed at home.
People who have grown up in the everyone-is-special and your-way-right-away culture of the past 20 years fundamentally resist regulations that seek to keep individualistic distractions at bay — even in academic settings.
They simply don’t believe anyone should be stopped from wearing anything, anywhere lest their unimpeachable self-expression be infringed upon.
No, yoga pants aren’t really the problem.
The real problem is parents who don’t insist their children treat school as a place to learn and respect others, not a fashion runway bestowing the “right to rock tight pants.”
These are the very parents who are likely respond to an administrator’s call home about inappropriate attire by railing that they themselves purchased the article in question and who does the school think it is to say it’s inappropriate?
The school’s teachers are the people held accountable for educating tomorrow’s productive workforce and engaged citizenry. Stop giving them yet another impediment to reaching this goal.
Esther Cepeda’s email address is email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter, @estherjcepeda.
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