Southampton High School’s Site-Based Team has released a draft dress code for students that lays out what students may wear to school, when they can wear it, and how it must be worn.
The name of the new dress code, “Freedom with Responsibility,” which is about as awful a name as “Site-Based Team,” is basically a euphemism for “The First Amendment minus all those pesky rights.” Putting “freedom” in the name of a code meant to restrict freedom is about as Orwellian as it gets. But as long as 1984 is removed from the English literature curriculum, the students will never catch on.
The draft is described as “dress code clarifications for students.” However, most of the proposals are so vague that they don’t actually clarify anything. Rather, the wording gives teachers and administrators justification to discipline kids for nearly any article of clothing those adults personally have an issue with, while students have no recourse or ability to defend of their clothing choices.
Despite its catch-all approach, the proposed policy fails to address the scourge of students wearing pajamas to school as if sleepwear were real clothes. Any policy calling itself a “dress code” should have to actually mandate people wear clothes.
When students wear pajama pants to school, it means one of two things. Either the kids just enjoy the comfort of jammies, or they rolled out of bed then got on the bus in the clothes they slept in. Either way, schools aren’t doing these kids any favors by permitting them to dress like they are headed to a sleepover.
Attached to the dress code proposal is a mission statement: “Southampton High School strives to create an environment that prepares students for success in college and careers. The Freedom with Responsibility clause embraces individuality and self- expression while maintaining a focus on preparing students to meet the challenges of a 21st century workforce.”
If you mean it, Southampton, before this draft becomes final, let’s see a ban on pajamas and sweatpants. Besides work-from-home employment, there are no jobs worth having in the 21st century workforce that permit Spongebob Squarepants PJs.
In addition to overlooking pajamas, the dress code also overreaches.
The first bullet of the proposal bans clothing “displaying offensive and/or illegal graphics or language.” Since there is no such thing in the United States as “illegal graphics or language,” those words are utterly meaningless. But because what is “offensive” is purely subjective, this bullet point pretty much prohibits anything with words or pictures on it, should a particular teacher on a given day be in the mood to find it objectionable. The code goes on to state, “This includes, but is not limited to clothing that depicts violence, drugs, illegal behavior, defamatory or discriminatory language or visuals.”
The second utterly vague bullet point is, “Clothing that has the potential to disrupt the educational process is not permitted.” If what they mean by this is costumes, revealing clothing, and clothing that incites negative behavior in other students, then they should spell it out. One could make the case that anything has the “potential to disrupt” education. If the purpose of this new policy is to clarify the dress code for students, then let’s actually clarify what is OK and what’s not. With no clear explanations, the policy invites students to test its boundaries and push its limits.
There are some things in the new policy that are actually specific—though when read literally, ridiculous.
“Clothing must partially cover the shoulder and fully cover all remaining areas to approximately 3 inches above the knee.”
So, long-sleeve turtlenecks it is then. Actually, because the dress code says nothing about see-through clothing, make that sheer long-sleeve turtlenecks.
“Tank top straps must be approximately 1 inch wide and not expose cleavage and/or mid area.”
What if the strap is exactly 1-inch wide? Would that be a problem?(meh) And would students get in trouble for straps that are 1.5 inches wide? And isn’t half an inch wide just as approximate as 1.5 inches wide? So half an inch is OK, right? (weird mid area thing with straps is more odd than size)
All pants/shorts/skirts must be worn at the waist.
What about the high-waisted shorts and skirts that have come back into fashion for many young girls? These aren’t OK? Too high for your taste, Southampton?
As for the boys, where are they supposed to find jeans designed to be worn at the waist? Men’s jeans that are worn at the waist have not been manufactured since Seinfeld ended in 1998. For most of these high school boys, the first time they wear pants that go up to the waist will be their prom tuxedos. Everything else they have ever worn was designed to be worn on the hips. Get with the 21st century.
“Hats and hoods are only permitted in the cafeteria and hallway.”
In fact, head coverings should be mandatory in the cafeteria. No one wants hair in their Taco Tuesday taco.
“Headphones, earphones, or multimedia devices are only allowed to be worn or used in one ear while moving about the building.”
This is really pushing the boundaries of a “dress code.” Putting that aside, what is the point of allowing kids to listen to headphones in the hallway? They can’t even finish listening to one song in the time it takes to go from one class to the next. Just ban headphones outright in school. It’s much easier to enforce, and the students aren’t really missing out on anything.
As for “multimedia devices,” it appears that Southampton is taking a proactive stance on Google Glass, though the device is not yet commercially available.