A new "Dress" code?

In another ridiculous dress code dispute, a boy (apparently no transsexual), got the ACLU to help him win the "right" to wear a skirt to school:

HASBROUCK HEIGHTS, N.J. (AP) - A male high school student can wear a skirt to school after the American Civil Liberties Union reached an agreement with school officials.

The ACLU announced the deal Tuesday. It will allow a Hasbrouck Heights School senior to wear a skirt to protest the school's no-shorts policy.

The district's dress code bans shorts between Oct. 1 and April 15, but allows skirts, a policy 17-year-old Michael Coviello believes is discriminatory.

"I'm happy to be able to wear skirts again to bring attention to the fact that the ban on shorts doesn't make sense," Coviello said in a statement.

I think he's happy to wear skirts just to get attention.

This whole flap is an argument in favor of school uniforms, even though it appears to undermine them. There's no reason why a school shouldn't be able to spell out what students wear, although public schools seem to constantly run into ridiculous problems whenever they attempt to do so.

Quite incidentally, when I was a kid, many schools -- private and Catholic parochial schools -- had dress codes far stricter than anything I see today. And ironically, the above boy's claim of "discrimination" could not have been made as easily under those rules, because shorts were allowed as part of the schools' uniforms. They weren't the sloppy, halfway between the knees and ankles variety you see today, though. Girls wore skirts of a certain length with knee socks, and boys wore shorts. But they were dress shorts worn with knee socks, and with school blazers -- the sort of thing today associated mainly with British preparatory schools. (Picture here.) Had the Hasbrouck Heights School in question above allowed boys to wear shorts in that style, the boy in question wouldn't have had a case of "discrimination."

Had the school made such a change in the dress code, would the ACLU would have had a case?

Sometimes, more strict is more fair.

AFTERTHOUGHT: I realize that by today's standards, the idea of boys wearing shorts with knee socks and blazers sounds ridiculous.

But in logic, why is it any more ridiculous than a boy wearing a skirt?

MORE: For more on the subject of dress codes, From the Grand Stand has written some very wise posts on the subject. Excerpt from a favorite:

One of the reasons that societies have dressed children in school uniforms and strictly controlled their behavior is the recognition that children will be resistant to developing their intellect and abilities if they are allowed to develop them outwardly, instead of inwardly. They become shells of human beings. It's so much easier to tattoo your body than it is to expand your mind. When children are forced to become interesting internally because there is no other option available to them to express themselves, they will do so. So, too, with behavior. If there is conformity in acceptable behavior then expressions must become mental hurdles.

Tearing down social conformity just enables outward conformity of a different variety. Western civilization left tribalism behind in the 16th century. Unfortunately, some people didn't get the memo or were incapable of reading it.

What they fail to realize today, however, is that we already know all this about them. Even without the experiment of similar attire and style. There is nothing unique about them at all. They are nothing more than drones (although colorful), trying to feel significant through the acceptance of others, rather than acceptance and development of themselves and their minds.

posted by Eric on 01.25.06 at 10:49 AM


Are we sure it's not a kilt?

elgato   ·  January 25, 2006 11:56 AM

Well scratch that. Just read the article. Looks like the principal said no to kilts as well. I'd wear that just to rile them up. A proper kilt is knee-length. Longer than cheerleader skirts, that's for sure.

Given the ridiculous across the board mentality schools have in most issues, I think the kid's got a point as to the double-standard (when framed against the zero-tolerance mindset) of girls wearing skirts and boys not being allowed to wear shorts.

Let him wear a kilt, but make him adhere to proper kilt lengths.

elgato   ·  January 25, 2006 12:00 PM

Allowing kilts for both sexes (while prohibiting shorts for both sexes) would appear to be technically fair. But might that invite claims that a girl still has more options in that she can wear a dress or a skirt, while the boy can only wear a kilt?

And wouldn't the kilt lead to confusion or disruption? Notice that "after a few days, he was sent home with a note from his principal saying if he wore a dress, kilt or skirt, he could no longer attend school." I think wearing the skirt caused a lot of distractions -- the very thing these dress codes are supposed to avoid.

If a school wants to have an official uniform that is always the same, I don't see why it can't be one uniform for all boys and one uniform for all girls -- without having to be the same uniform for both sexes. Schools used to do that, and students were a lot less distracted. If the uniforms are analogous to each other in terms of cost and overall parity, not allowing boys to wear the girls' uniform is no more discriminatory than not allowing girls to wear the boy's uniform. By discriminating against both sexes equally, I don't think it discriminates against either sex any more than, say, separate bathrooms, or separate hair style regulations.

Obviously, the ACLU disagrees.

Eric Scheie   ·  January 25, 2006 1:39 PM

I'm all for uniforms. I wore them in high school. As an "economically disadvantaged" student, I had to get mine second-hand, but nobody ever knew because, duh, they were uniforms.

It always cracks me up when I hear kids say they need to express their individuality through their clothing. I say clothing only expresses levels of affluence. In some cases, it expresses dissatisfaction with life in general (trench coats, for example).

Either way, it's too bad kids have to rely on clothing rather than personality to express individuality.

Bonnie   ·  January 26, 2006 3:43 PM

Uniforms. Ya, I'm down with government dictating what kids wear. Hug the nanny state!

anonymous   ·  January 27, 2006 11:41 PM

I hate government telling people what to do, but who's the government? If parents want their local school to have uniforms, is that "the government"? Or, if the ACLU gets a court to stop them, is that "the government"?

(Of course, I say this as someone who disagrees with state control of education, so I'm probably a lost cause....)

Eric Scheie   ·  January 28, 2006 8:33 AM

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