Friday, August 13, 2010

Dress-code blues

So you're out shopping for the start of school. Your son just has to have a T-shirt with a clever but risque saying, while your daughter is smitten with a revealing spaghetti-strap top. And there you are, caught in the crossfire between youthful fashion and school dress codes.

My colleague Cristina Bolling is working on a back-to-school story on that very subject. She's seeking parents, teachers, students and administrators to weigh in on fashion flash points: Which forbidden items create the most conflict? What would adults like to see banned? Have students found creative work-arounds that let them sport trendy stuff without getting busted, such as wearing leggings under too-short skirts?

She didn't mention it, but I suspect a few of you have thoughts about how teachers dress, or ought to dress, as well.

There are a couple of ways to weigh in: Post here, and we'll all enjoy the conversation. Or e-mail Cristina at cbolling@charlotteobserver.com; I'm sure she's especially eager to hear from people willing to be quoted in her story.

37 comments:

Anonymous said...

It never ceases to amaze me how many parents are unable or unwilling to be in charge.

"But he WANTED it, and I just HAVE to give him everything he wants. Why can't those evil school administrators understand that?"

Anonymous said...

As a teacher, I dress professionally each day. Even on a "casual Friday". Think Ann Taylor or JC Penny Worthington, etc. I have taught with colleagues who are trying to fit in more with the students and wear clothing that looks like it escaped from the Junior section...it's a little embarrassing from my point of view.

Looking at students...Each year it all boils down to the same thing--unless a student is working and buying their own clothing the PARENTS are who is allowing their daughter to arrive at school looking like a 25 cent hooker and their young men to look like they pooed their britches before arriving with their purchases off too big pants that are belted or held up right above their knees and the low cut, skin-tight, too short fashions of the gals. Bottom line it is the parents' jobs to make sure their child is dressed appropriately---are they going to whine and beg for those sexually objectifying fashions calling them cute... absolutely...some girls are anyway---the girls who haven't been taught by their families that they have more to offer the world than their anatomy. The boys can be tough because they often won't let mom into the dressing room to check the fit of their britches...I heard just last week in JC Penny a boy call his mom a really rude name (which,that is indicative right there) to get out of the dressing room--he "wasn't an F-n baby and didn't need her stupid self embarrassing him." As teachers, we don't want to see a girl's goodies on display--they bend over at lockers and flash the world from the top and bottom...guys give them "extra feely" hugs...It is a WASTE of my time during the day to constantly tell a girl...pull the skirt down a bit...pull that top up... young man, pull up your pants after he flashes the world his plaid covered bottom---we don't want to see their underoos--especially as some boys don't change them each day. We don't want to see a girl's thong--why are you buying your daughter thongs--no...they aren't more comfortable mom--she's full of it---she is saying that because she wants the little tiger stripped string pieces to show just above the top of her skirt at her waist line because her shirt isn't really long enough to completely cover her belly, which she likes to stretch up to "reach something" in her locker to expose to the viewing public--both belly and thong or a little bit of cheek out of the bottom of their skirts... Do they need to dress in potato sacks---no....but there is a way to be presentable and fashionable if you have the cojones to stand up to your children and set ground rules.

Anonymous said...

My child is going to a uniform school. AMEN! I wish all schools would have a proscribed dress code or uniforms. Life is so much easier in the mornings. I know she is appropriately dressed and there isn't the fight over fashions in the least. Uniforms are the way to go.

Larry said...

Someone said they are surprised that parents are scared to be in charge.

No they are not scared to be in charge they WANT TO BE THEIR CHILDREN'S FRIENDS!

And sadly that is not working at all.

BE PARENTS, parents, I know you think your parents were being mean but look how you turned out, you actually care about your kids and their feelings. So give your kids a chance to do the same. BE PATENTS. I volunteer at the challenged schools and can tell you in five seconds the kids who parents who are parents or just there providing food and shelter.

So your kids hate you for a few years. Eventually they have kids and you can use them against them to make their lives miserable.

Anonymous said...

This is fairly simple - the school system adopts a dress code and enforces it. If the kids come to school 'out of code', they are sent home. This worked well when I was in school in Guilford County - and that was the 1990's.

Boys and girls had to wear pants at least 3/4 of the way to their knees, boys and girls had to wear at least short sleeves (no straps), and tshirts with words liek 'Big Johnson' were not allowed.

Anonymous said...

I agree with the comments above regarding uniforms. CMS should go uniform across the board or at least at the Elem and Middle levels. My children went to a uniform school for 2 years and this will be our first at a non uniform school because of reassignment. Back to School shopping has been time consuming and much more expensive than the past 2 years.

Anonymous said...

I have a question about dress codes. The dress code at Indy states no blue, black or red solid tee shirts. Can someone tell me what is behind this? I thought maybe it was gang colors but then someone else I know thought it had to do with rival football colors.

I blame the parents how some kids come dressed to school. The parents are the ones buying the clothes for these kid.

The only thing that my daughter wears occasionally that is in the dress code is spaghetti straps. She'll wear it but with a cardigan over it.

There is a lot of trashy clothing out there but there is enough respectable fashionable clothing as well. My daughter knows what mommy will and won't allow. My son is no problem at all.

Anonymous said...

Yep, a teacher wearing nice blue jeans is not going to be as effective as one wearing a skirt or dress. I'd rather have a teacher wearing shorts if he/she can do the job. This teacher "dress code" does not make you a better teacher. Unless, of course, you are a Teach For America cadet.

Anonymous said...

I taught at a school that required uniforms for everyone: students, faculty, and staff. It was wonderful! The school worked with a uniform supply company to offer multiple styles of shirts (with collars and the school logo) and several types of bottoms (skirts, pants, and shorts all in navy, khakhi, and black) which allowed students some freedom when choosing their wardrobes. The standard colors and styles, however, meant that parents (and teachers!) only had to buy 5 outfits at the beginning of the year. They could then mix and match the pieces. It was a great compromise between a set uniform and free dressing. As a teacher, I loved being able to wake up in the morning and get dressed without considering my outfit.

Anonymous said...

Really parents? Look at your kids before they leave for school, it's ok to say NO to them! Our S. charlotte area middle school is pretty good at enforcing the policy but I'm still shocked when I see what some of the girls are wearing.... Uniforms are starting to sound pretty good to me!

Anonymous said...

Way back in the dark ages, my mother ALWAYS had a good look at me before I left for school, where I rolled up my skirt at the waist or changed into something I had stashed in my backpack. It was a very rude awakening for her the day I got sent home for violating the dress code! I was wearing a skort that barely covered my behind. She didn't even know I owned it.

Anonymous said...

The dress code at Independence is pretty strict. The Dean of students there, Ms. Jones, does not play with that. Oh yeah, the blue, red, black t-shirt thing is about gang colors. Mr. Simmons is very strict with that. We all hated it at first, but got used to it and now expect it. We start checking ourselves as soon as we see Ms. Jones walking down the hall. She's my favorite administrator, funny, but strict!

Anonymous said...

I've noticed a few of the gangsta wannabe class wearing droopy drawers where the underwear are actually sewn in as a false top for the pants.

Basically, they're droopy jeans deliberately made with underwear tops.

How's that for stupid?

wiley said...

Let's see...the last sevral articles have been about high poverty schools and today we're discussing fashion and must have clothes for school.

I would think getting kids to step foot on school grounds would trump what they're wearing when they get there, especially at those high poverty schools where you keep repeating these kids have nothing and must be bused to schools that do.

I could take this discussion into an area I don't think you want it to go in so I'll leave it at that.

Anonymous said...

Most of the research (except the research financed by the Uniform companies) shows that dress code/uniforms has little effect on either achievement or discipline.

Anonymous said...

Uniforms are the only way to go.

Nip it in the bud.

I don't think I'd send my kid to a school without at least that minimum amount of discipline the way "other" kids and their parents are today.

Anonymous said...

Stop being friends with your kids. Be parents first. My neighbors are friends with their kids and one of them has been arrested 3 times for theft, B&E and running from the cops and he's still in high school.

If you can't make your kids understand that you dress appropriately for wherever you are going then they have no chance when they have to go to the real workforce, ad you have failed them.

Timothy Whitson said...

My experience has been that all adolescents are going to exhibit some form of anarchy; it's all part of the developmental process. Key is picking your battles, and allowing some individuality (within reason) while expressing your distaste for it. I personally think allowing the student to be sent home once "officially" for violating dress code sends the message that in some areas, conforming to society is mandatory. Most people learn lessons the best through some measure of failure. This doesn't mean allowing a free-for-all, but reinforcing school consequences with home consequences.

Anonymous said...

Uniforms ROCK! As a parent, it's the best solution to clothing disagreements and distractions. My children are shocked at what they see in the stores (or on other children) sometimes. Since there's no peer pressure to wear the latest trend (outside of school), they are able to form good judgment about fashion. Sad that so many in CMS don't have school supplies and are behind in academics----butall the back-to-school fuss is about having "appropriate" new clothes. Too bad we're not discussing what they read over the summer, instead of spaghetti straps and underwear-jeans.

Anonymous said...

When it doubt... don't wear it out!


Underwear should be covered (hince the name "under"), T-shirts shouldn't have questionable quotes or, and for the love of "Pete", keep you body parts tucked inside!

Anonymous said...

As a teacher, I am often embarrassed by how teachers dress. I'd argue that we don't get paid or treated like real professionals because we don't dress like one. Flip flops, tight pants, tank tops, & tennis shoes are appropriate for corporate America and they shouldn't be appropriate for us. Female teachers that are still shopping in the Junior's Department need to GROW UP! You are no longer a Junior- get over it! And male teachers, unless your teaching in the gym everyday, mesh pants & T-Shirts should be worn after work is over!
Jean Days, Spirit Days, and other special events are worthy of dressing down, but the rest of the schools days should be taken seriously. Appearances make an impression and many teachers should consider that every morning when they get dressed!

Anonymous said...

I do not work in CMS, but I can say that I try very hard to dress well as a way of commanding and exhibiting respect for my position. I'm 26 and work in a high school and think I dress well, probably better than most other teachers in my building. The way we dress says a lot about us, my mother taught me that very early in life. Our principal is tough on dress code in general with the students, but there are always those few who seem to skate by somehow...

When it comes to dress code, I'm in favor of uniforms for students and staff. Of course, it's safe to say that if stores like Hollister and American Eagle and Abercrombie and Fitch didn't market t-shirts with obviously inappropriate sayings on them to teens, we wouldn't have this problem no more than if girls weren't offered spaghetti straps at age 12 and earlier in stores like Justice.

It's easy to blame parents, but I find that often the students who know they are breaking dress code bring a back-up pair of jeans/shorts or top to prevent that phone call home and/or the time in ISS. We can assume that if they are carrying the clothes with them, they probably wore them out the door and slipped to the bathroom upon arrival at school to change into the questionable clothes.

This is one of the few things that I get very animated about when it comes to schools. Why have a dress code if it isn't properly enforced? Wouldn't a uniform just be easier? I have a teacher friend in Guilford County whose middle school has a Standard Mode of Dress (SMOD) and that seems to curtail most of the dress code issues without students being completely denied any choices in their wardrobe.

Otherwise, students don't understand that if they would just make better choices when they get dressed, we wouldn't have to police them. It's that idea about putting your hairdryer in water, the reason there's a warning is because someone obviously did it!

End rant :)

Anonymous said...

I support dress codes and think they should be enforced, but I abhor uniforms. Like so much else in education, it is the easy way out and smacks of Facism.

That said, it is very difficult to find a decent pair of shorts for a teenage girl unless they are bermudas. My daughter, who is thin, but heavier in the thighs - has a difficult time finding one that don't bind. Why do the fashionistas think shorts have to be booty shorts or down to your knees.

Anonymous said...

I've spend considerable time inside CMS schools and am appalled at what some kids wear to schools. Retailers are constantly trying to "sexualize" our children and it is maddening. Also, have you tried shopping for appropriate back to school shorts in August? All the retailers have are jeans! This is a pet peeve of mine.
My suggestions for school dress-codes are the following:
1. Set strict guidelines and follow them. SEND STUDENTS HOME when dressed inappropriately. Shorts/skirts that fall halfway down the leg are not an unreasonable expectation. When children don't adhere to the dress-code make it inconvenient for their parents.
2. Consider uniforms. They may not help academic performance but they would make enforcing an appropriate dress code easier.
3. Put that dress code in writing for all to see. Send it home with students, email it in a PTSA blitz, announce it for all to hear. Let it be heard.
4. This is the tough one...parents, your teenage daughters should go to school prepared to learn. This includes being dressed appropriately. If you don't know your school's dress code, assume that booty shorts, camis, tanks and shirts that put your "girls" on display are not appropriate for school, or any school related activity. Parents of boys - buy pants that fit or make them wear a belt and have expectations that your boys don't look like they're bangers.
In closing - the best thing would be UNIFORMS for all.

47 year old Mother with two teens said...

Those of you that think parents have complete control over their teenager do not have SOCIAL teenagers. My 16 year old has a job and she buys her own clothes so no I don't GIVE her everything she wants. Secondly, teenagers will LEAVE The house dressed appropriately but once at school change their attire (gasp! I bet you never thought of that!) As far as school dress codes each CMS school has their own code. One doesn't allow flip flops... what no $45 Rainbows?! Shorts must be to the knee. Shoulders must be completely covered. Guys no hats but yes Coach Whistle can wear his hat. So "NO" to athletes you can NOT wear your "tank" uniform top to school on game day! And cheerleaders leave your skirt and briefs at home until you are in front of the fans. A dress code is needed in high school, but administration needs to use discretion when enforcing it. There is a difference in hoochie mama clothes what is seen in ads for Belk, Dillard, Kohl's, Nordstrom. For 90+ degree weather I like the "hem no shorter that the finger tips and straps no less than three finger widths rule" otherwise have a school uniform because parents can't afford to go and buy a new wardrobe of shorts to the knee and shoulders covered from neck to shoulder just for school.

47 year old Mother with two teens said... said...

correction to my posting above: There is a difference BETWEEN hoochie mama clothes AND what is seen in ads for Belk, Dillard, Kohl's, Nordstrom.

Anonymous said...

I'm so cheap... As a mother, I love school uniforms. They're a no brainer in the morning, you can wear the same pants two days in a row and you never have to worry about finding an extra school shirt or sweatshirt on the 'Lost and Found' rack. Uniforms can also be recycled at the end of the year if they're in good shape but just outgrown.

As a teenager, I was SO glad my parents didn't send me to the Catholic high school that some of my friends from Jr. High attended. One of my best friends would yank up her plaid skirt the minute she left the house and always had to have an expensive handbag and shoes. Her school dances and athletic events were a LOT better than mine though with students dressing up for the occasion instead of looking like slobs in black KISS concert t-shirts.

As a teacher, I can't imagine a "colors of the rainbow" school like Northwest School of the Arts ever adhering to a uniform dress code except in ballet and modern dance classes where this is standard international etiquette. Music students also generally adhere to a dress code for formal concerts. What a wonderful world.

Anonymous said...

The Observer can't POSSIBLY do a story about school clothes without mentioning (or photographing) what a couple of fashion forward CMS officials were sporting at Tuesday night's school board meeting!

Guy Chamberlain: Navel Academy grad., former football player, auxiliary services CMS chief. My 1979 dream prom date. Baby, the new Navy Blue.

Dr. Pete Gorman: School super. Bringing the Miami Vice five o'clock shadow home.

Coach White: Let's not go here.

Gentlemen, start your Ferraris.

Anonymous said...

"Allow Kids individuality" - I think allowing kids to think that dressing a certain way is the key to their individuality is teaching a poor message to your kids. Individuality is how you think, things you do and not how you dress. My kids have gone to a school with a flexible uniform for 9 years and I think they are better for it when compared to friend's kids who don't have uniforms.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
par said...

extchThis is fairly simple - the school system adopts a dress code and enforces it. Open and shut case. Why the unneccessary jargon. Can the Observer publish constructive articles.

wiley said...

par said...
extchThis is fairly simple - the school system adopts a dress code and enforces it. Open and shut case. Why the unneccessary jargon. Can the Observer publish constructive articles.


Then why can't they enforce the discipline policies and kick unruly kids out of school for violent acts?

Anonymous said...

Have a dress code. Enforce it. If the students violate it, make them change into school-issued smocks that they have to return the next day or pay for. Confiscate the inappropriate clothing items and return them to the students on the final day of the school year.

Anonymous said...

Enforcement is really the issue, and when one is dealing with disrespect, obscenity and violence, dress code seems like small potatoes.

Most of the research finds little support for any connection between dress code/uniforms and either achievement or discipline improvement. Although people do like to have them.

If CMS is really concerned about these kind of issues, it needs to stop being so lawsuit-shy and start acting like other counties. Expel kids who refuse to conform to the rules, rather than force schools to jump through months of hoops. Stop making it so easy for violent kids to hide behind the EC label.

In all this sturm und drang of assignment, no one is really addressing the issue that steals more learning time than anything else.

Anonymous said...

Uniforms suck. It appears to be a control tactic. It seems to me that in public schools, uniforms are reserved for the challenged schools. Wealthier school children have the freedom to wear whatever they wish.

It's like slavery you know, with the lack of freedom to choose and all.

Or is it that wealthier children have earned the right to wear whatever they wish, while poor kids haven't proven themselves yet?

Some schools went straight to uniforms without receiving the necessary votes by parents to approve them.

Oh BTW, when a black girl wears a pair of shorts or a skirt that is at an acceptable legnth, but because her legs are fleshier than that of a white girl, the black girl is made to change clothes, while the white girl is not.

How are those uniforms working out? Education should be the focus at school, not clothing.

Anonymous said...

My son is starting middle school this year, and I have already visited the school and meet some of the administrators. This school has a uniform policy, which has been in place for several years; my daughter actually attended this school, before transfering her to another-more administratively lead school. The first question, to the newly appointed adminstration, was how do you plan to teach my child critical thinking skills through proper assertion of the dress code? I have experenced in the past where uniform schools allow the children to wear their uniforms in inapproate forms. My opinion is, LEAD BY EXAMPLE. Staff should be required to wear the same clothing as the students. I am reminded of a quote from Gen. Colon Powell, "The qualities of a good leader is their abilities to help others get the job done." When we show the students proper dress, they will better prepared to get the job done.

Anonymous said...

i dont think schools should have uniforms because kids cant express themselves and also if you force your kid to wear what you want them to then theyl end up being mad at you as long as theyre not wearing anything with innapropriate sayings or wearing any thing showing to much skin or theyre under wear it should be alowd