It is no surprise that with the new school year fast approaching, there are bound to be changes – some expected, some not; more importantly, some welcome and some, much more controversial. This year, one such dramatic and contentious change to a local urban district’s dress code policy has many students ranting – or, perhaps more accurately, kicking and screaming! Student responses to the Board of Education’s decision last spring to tighten the dress code have ranged from tolerance or indifference to sheer outrage and verbalized plans of protest.
That was last year; last school year, that is. With reminders sent to families through the automated phone messaging system and at new student orientation, will local inner city students become accustomed to what is in store for them? After all, they have had a whole summer to let the idea “sink in”, right?
Well, if you know adolescent children who want more than anything to assert their independence and, at all cost, maintain their sense of identity, whatever that is for them, then compliance to the new dress code policy could be challenging, at best.
So, what’s the big deal with the new change, anyway? Let’s take a look at how a local urban student came to school last year – correction, how they were supposed to. Basically, boys wore a collared shirt and a pair of cotton twill pants or shorts – no denim, jersey, camouflage, etc. – and closed toe shoes. Girls were expected to wear similar, except that they could wear a dress and/or shirt with skirt, not “too tight”, “too short”, and “too low-cut”. Guidelines were specifically outlined in the district handbook as they will be now for the new policy, which has moved toward a uniform-style model. The uniform will require that all students show up for the morning bell in either a black or green collared shirt and either a black or khaki pair of pants – period.
Compliance is going to be key and, no doubt, a value local urban educators perpetually attempt to instill in our often troubled youth, who in many cases, are learning this for the very first time. With any luck, the new dress code will stick. Even better, maybe the studies suggesting improved behavior, will be confirmed. No one would be foolish enough to say right away, but in the end, isn’t it up to educators teaming with administration to get the ball rolling? Obviously, there are many factors out of our control, as always. Maybe though, we can make our local urban schools a little better this year than they were before. Maybe the dress code will move us in the right direction – or, not! Time will tell.