Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Tooele Jr. High Dress Code Debacle

Last spring a local Tooele Jr. High student and her father made national news after he wrote an angry blog post in reaction to her getting in trouble for wearing a skirt that was deemed in violation of her school's dress code. I've been reading some articles online about this today, and this is what I think. Feel free to comment, but if you get nasty I will block you. Just sayin'.

Point 1- They knew the rules. She wore the skirt, knowing the rule. Or maybe not-- maybe she thought it was long enough. I could see that. In the photo, it looks long enough.
Point 2- She very likely had it pulled up higher, look at that elastic waistband. Come on, she's a teenage girl. BUT, since we don't know that she did, I suppose we should reserve judgement on this point. Unlike the vitriol spewed at the Principal and administration. Huffington Post and other online commenters and the dad implying that the Principal or other school officials are perverts and that they sexualized this girl are WAY out of line and, frankly, libelistic.
Point 3- Many commenters (and the dad) also indicate that this girl was "singled out" and punished, while dozens of more scantily-clad girls wandered the halls freely. This could have been the case, but may not be completely true. Most Jr. High schools with dress codes spend an inordinate amount of time enforcing them. Granted, not everyone gets called in and punished, but many do. You just don't always hear about it on national news sites.
Point 4- And probably the most important point: We will never know both sides of this story. Did the girl get sent home because she refused to tug the skirt down to an appropriate length? Was the girl as obstinant as her father seems to be, escalating the problem? Was the girl sweet and cooperative, simply a victim of the cruel overseers at her backwards, backwoods, conservative school? Hm...
Point 5- Living in a "conservative Mormon community" actually has little to do with this situation. Over- and/or under-enforcement of the dress code is probably the point.
Point 6- I really hope the girl did not knowingly break this rule. I also hope that she didn't just learn that rebellion and mocking authority is the answer when you get in trouble. If school administraters were over the line in this situation, then the family should file a complaint, or join the school board and try to get the rule adjusted or changed or stricken, whatever their conscience tells them.
Point 7- I live in Tooele Co. School District. Every year for each of my children I have to fill out and sign packets of paperwork. I hate it. One of the papers involved, including multiple variations of it that are given to the kids and included on the websites, is about their schools' dress codes. ALL students and parents receive these things. Everyone knows the standard. It's impossible to enforce 100%, but it IS enforced. So dress accordingly.
Point 8- Why didn't the dad just bring her a change of clothes? I... don't understand. Even if I disagree with a rule, thinking it's stupid, I still expect my child to obey it, until we can get it changed. Civilized society, anyone?
Point 9- Get ready, girl, most workplaces also have a dress code. And many are stricter than school...

A lot was said about the principal not being there when the dad came to get the girl. Do we actually expect to have the principal involved on every dress code violation? And did the dad ask for an appointment or meeting with the principal, upon getting to the school and deciding his daughter's punishment was ludicrous? Was he denied a meeting? Common sense, anyone?

Let's assume that the story is as the dad tells it. Innocent girl gets singled out and punished for wearing cute, modest skirt only a bare centimeter from the standard. She cruelly gets sent home for wearing it. If this is the true story, the whole story, the problem still isn't the dress code. The problem is the policy of enforcement of the dress code. The girl didn't realize her skirt was too short, perhaps. The girl and her father claim that the rules are inconsistently enforced ("selective enforcement"). If this is true, then THAT is what TJHS needs to address with teachers and admins and staff.

One other thing: I know clothes are expensive, and modest lengths are hard to come by, especially as kids grow like weeds. However, I doubt this is the only thing that girl has to wear.

I would whole-heartedly support uniforms for kids, but in Tooele School District, there are some families that really struggle financially, and I think it would cause an undue burden on them. I would also support a clearer standard for skirts. Maybe to their fingertips? I think in HS, our standard was two inches longer than where our fingers ended... I don't know for sure, though. Maybe they should just say the skirts have to cover the knees while sitting... hmm...

There is no one right answer, just as there is not only one side to this story. What bothered me the most about all of this was all the accusations that the principal and/or teachers involved were perverts. That kind of thing is just wrong. Be careful what you say online, people. Think before you type... then go back and read it before you hit "post". Edit. Then think some more.


Anonymous said...

I hate how in Utah everything is because of the Mormons. I now live in Florida and I have a daughter who constantly is challenging the dress code. She has been sent home, after I told her not to wear something. They are pretty strict and gee the Mormon population is about 30 in a school of 3000! As a parent my kids don't like to listen to me and I appreciate the school trying to enforce the dress code!

Steph said...

Thanks, Anonymous for your comment! :) I concur...