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April 28, 2008



We are having a battle in our local school district over flip flops. And parents are taking the side of their teens. I struggle a bit with this because I personally think it is silly to ban flip flops. We have an inner city school and it seems we have much bigger issues to deal with besides flip flops. Now with the belly shirts and short skirts I'm in complete agreement....but we also had a school that banned hoodies. It is these trivial rules that set kids up to rebel against the more well-meaning rules.


One reason female principals are more willing than male principals to enforce the dress code is the fear of sexual harassment. Many male teachers and principals are afraid to comment on girls' short skirts and low cut tops, because they don't want to be accused of looking at underage girls. It puts them in a really awkward spot. Some male teachers do go get a female teacher to address the situation.


When I was in grade school in the 80s and 90s we always had school dress codes. And if you broke the school dress code, your parents had to come and get you or bring you a change of clothes. I remember the code was very strict especially in regards to length of shorts and shirts.

I think school dress codes are essential. I'd even support a school uniform if it came down to that. School is about learning and immodest wardrobes are a major distraction.


What worries me about this is not what the rules are, but the apparent "justification" for said rules. Particularly: "Boys tend to look if a girl is dressed seductively — and it takes away from time on learning.' "
I think it is a very dangerous thing to teach our young men that, if they learn less because they spent time oggling or chasing a girl dressed "provocatively" that it is somehow the fault or responsibility of the girl. School is a place where children of all sexes are meant to learn to be adults--a big part of which is taking responsibility for their own actions.

Katie Gillet

Olivia, I have to agree with you. There should not be need of any more justification to the rules than "This is not appropriate for school." But now we're operating without a framework in place that says Q is appropriate for X, R is appropriate for Y. When was the last time you heard anyone refer to "school clothes" or "play clothes"?


Olivia, I can't help but shake my head in bewilderment at comments like yours, because in their intent to make a point about the unwanted implications of a rule, such comments ignore the actual reality of the situation, which is that males ARE distracted by revealing dress on females. Are you saying that it is the boys' fault that they are distracted? Are they supposed to brush aside the powerful urges of biology and somehow turn off their minds to a beautiful body being displayed to them?

While I believe that males should be responsible for their ACTIONS (ie. "chasing" a girl), boys somehow willing themselves to avoid being distracted by revealing female clothing is simply unrealistic. This is why tradition has long recognized an obligation on the part of a female to dress modestly, because she CAN control her state of dress. It is true that, regardless of the state of her dress, society should and must protect her right to be free from unwanted sexual advances. But it is also true that if she is dressed provocatively in a public place she will distract males and receive visual attention, wanted or not. Don't be concerned about inadvertently "teaching" boys this simple fact of life--each of them already knows it quite well.


My oldest two children's public charter high school had the regular dress code for most days, and had 'career days' when students were expected to dress in business attire (usually when they had a guest speaker, for example.) It was a great way to help them understand appropriate dress for differing settings. Was also a good excuse to get some extra wear in the 'church clothes.' On those days, they did not do PE and tended to be more serious -- what a shocker!


Christian, I understand your arguement. but shouldnt we focus on educating young men to have enough respect for women to NOT let thier sexual desires destract them from their actual classmates?
I know this is alot to ask in this day and age but appropriating the reponsibility of controlling a boys level of distractedness to a twelve year old girl certainly doesnt seem fair.
I certainly think dress codes are a perfectly acceptable class regulation but maybe we should rethink the terms a bit.


Dress codes and modesty are integral to any development of healthy sexuality.

How can we expect our boys to manage their biology when girls are not expected to manage their modesty?

If you are dieting and want a cookie, do you get out the package of Oreos and sit it on your desk? Or do you take measures that help you control that very understandable desire by putting the cookies on a shelf where they are not directly tempting you?

When girls dress provocatively, they are creating an unwinnable situation for everyone at that school. Boys cannot learn to respect women as people when they are made up as a sexual objects. Girls cannot learn to respect themselves or feel comfortable with men if they are constantly being ogled.

Both parties have to take responsibility for creating a safe environment conducive to learning.


There was a case last week in Billerica, Massachusetts, a neighboring town, that made the front page of the local paper, the Lowell Sun. It was about a high school girl who was sent home for wearing an inappropriate tee-shirt upon which was printed "sophmore 69." Apparently the girl and her outraged mother were completely clueless about what was wrong with the message on the shirt. (Could it be that "sophomore" was spelled wrong? LOL). Anyway, it was a big, front-page story, which evoked all kinds of First Amendment commentary, though, as a lawyer, I don't recall that the First Amendment protects the rights of commercial enterprises to make money off ignorant teens from the sales of slutty tee-shirts! Shame on her mother for not teaching her daughter to respect herself. If women would just stand up for themselves and demand the respect they deserve, these "controversies" wouldn't come about. Imagine, if instead of being sexually explicit, the message was racially insulting. Would the outcome have been the same?


Ah, every time I hear someone say dress codes are good because they prevent distraction, I cannot decide if I should laugh or shake my head. Especially when they specifically say "Boys tend to look if a girl is dressed seductively — and it takes away from time on learning." Please. The only reason they would look is if the girl is pretty and/or has a nice body; all the provocative clothing does is make it more interesting for them. I've attended a school that rarely (if ever) enforced its dress code and one with full uniforms and boys stared at pretty girls just as much in both places.
Besides, this reasoning implies that significant learning is lost, which is false.

Personally, I think the superintendent should have let the girl transfer, because she's obviously going to continue to be a problem.


I have a daughter in primary school, and I have told her and my husband that I intend to back up any and all judgement calls by her teachers and the principal. If we allow our children to appeal to us parents the rulings handed down by school authorities, all is lost.

Every school, BTW, should have a tough no-nonsense middle age woman authorized to decide whether any student is indecently or provocatively dressed. If the principal is a woman, she can wear both hats. If my daughter is showing too much skin, or wearing a T-shirt with a vulgarity printed on it, I want someone at her school to convey to me his or her displeasure at what my daughter has done.

My daughter's school has a uniform, and that's just fine by me.
I would also support requiring girls to wear long pants in cold weather, and knee length skorts in warm. I grit my teeth when I see high school girls with hemlines 6 or more inches above the knee. How can they sit or bend over without revealing that which only a husband should see? Why provoke boys whose hormones make their blood boil and their retinas all too curious?


There was a school district in Texas (good ol' Texas) that, if a girl wore a revealing shirt that violated the dress code, she had to go to principal's office and get a sweatshirt to put on over it. The sweatshirt said, "I will respect myself." Ouch. I could see parent's complaining about THAT, although I rather like it.

I imagine female principals are more willing to enforce because they aren't as likely to be accused of sexism or repressed pedophilia urges if they tell a girl she can't wear a certain outfit. I imagine male principals would be willing to enforce the code on boys more than on girls.

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