Dress Codes

Feb 25, 2020 by

So which is it:  fluff, smoke and mirrors, a red herring or an urgent assertion of human rights?

The latest topic bedevilling some of  in our schools naturally has nothing to do with strengthening academic standards. It’s about “dress codes”.  A few “bullet points” from a recent Chalkbeat article, followed by my own hollow points.

1) Policing student attire to ‘prevent’ sexual violence perpetuates rape culture”, according to a report from Girls For Gender Equality.

2) “Instituting a policy that prohibits ‘distracting’ clothing or bans clothing that is typically associated with one gender, such as a mini-skirt, would not be permitted” if existing rules are amended.

3) Brooklyn City Councilman Brad Lander wants to require the DOE to submit the dress codes of all 1800 or more public schools, together with a comprehensive data compilation of any disciplinary actions taken pursuant to them.  It would also include “whether the policy distinguishes between gender and gender presentation, defined as how someone chooses to present themselves.”

4) The Girls For Gender Equality advocates elimination of discretionary authority of all school staffers over setting and enforcing dress code standards, except for article containing  graphic explicit hate speech.  The Council of Supervisors and Administrators (CSA) feels that each school should continue to have autonomy in the development of dress codes in consultation with school leadership teams. They feel that this has worked well and is consistent with community empowerment.

5) The DOE says “we prohibit gender-based dress codes at all schools”.  (Aside: is that another way of saying what is good for the goose is good for the gander?)

This issue got kick-started by a Bronx high school student who was allegedly suspended from school last year because she rejected an administrator’s solution for bringing the student’s dress violation into compliance.

If the student’s account is faithful to the facts, it would seem that she was indeed treated harshly.  But given that students are either not suspended at all or for only a few days for offences like weapons possession, it sounds like a highly exceptional case.

It is essential to respect not only the law but the sensitivities of vulnerable students in matters that are highly private to them and their journey of maturation into adulthood. They must be spared psychological trauma and one shouldn’t make light of that, even to prove a larger point that may appear somewhat contradictory.

Society must adapt to accommodate us all on gender-focused issues. Let us be inclusive and universal in our embrace.

Ron Isaac

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