The idea of dress codes in schools continues to be a hot topic and a tough one for administrators to deal with.
A recommendation for a new passage in schools’ code of conduct was made this week at a committee meeting of the Greater Victoria School District.
While the proposed policy speaks to “creating a learning community that values diversity and is free from all forms of discrimination,” by removing any reference to clothing in the code, it gives little direction to administrators faced with challenging decisions almost daily around the appropriateness of clothing worn to school.
Those challenges increase for people overseeing higher grades. Principals and educators in middle school, and more so at high school, work with young people anxious to be seen as grown up, despite the fact most still have an adolescent or teen maturity level.
Students’ personalities run the gamut from outgoing or attention-seeking to subdued or shy, and as such, their clothing often reflects that nature. As they get older they can be more subject to the influence of popular culture and use their bodies to send messages, either direct or overt.
So is it the school district’s job to determine what others may find distracting or disturbing, or does that job lie with parents before students leave the house? The reality is that starting mostly in the middle school years, parents exert little control over what their children wear to school.
Given that scenario, school administrators, like bosses who occasionally ask employees to dress more appropriately for a job, need to have tools at their disposal to send helpful life messages to students who might not be learning about appropriateness elsewhere. It will help them discern the difference between dressing for personal time and wearing suitable attire for a learning environment.
Schools are not the place to tread on one’s individuality either, which makes administrators’ jobs even tougher.
We hope the final policy is sensitive but also productive.