It’s difficult to say which is the worst youth fashion statement of our time: hipster pants and a short shirt that reveal the bare midriffs of teen girls and young women or the extra large pants that sag low on a teen boy’s hips to disclose his boxer shorts.
Obviously, what these children wear is their own business and their parents’ much of the time. As long as the teens aren’t violating decency standards, they can wear anything they want in public. Gang colors. Short skirts. Baseball caps cocked every which way. Blouses that reveal cleavage. Thongs. Clothing bearing vulgarity or advertising verboten products, such as beer or tobacco. However, the freedom to dress as you please shouldn’t extend to the schoolyard.
The Central Valley School District made a welcome move this summer by tightening its dress code to crack down on distracting garb. School, concluded the district correctly, should be a place to learn and not simply a place to kill time hanging out with friends until evening when everyone goes downtown or to the mall. A school district’s responsibility is to limit the number of distractions in providing the best learning environment for all students. Since clothing worn by students can be distracting and threatening, Central Valley was right to join nearly half of the nation’s districts since 2000 which are enforcing stricter dress codes.
The district left little room for confusion by spelling out its code, which bans clothing that reveals undergarments, bare midriffs, bare backs, or cleavage. Also, according to reporter Sara Leaming of The Spokesman-Review, the code prohibits clothing with references to alcohol, tobacco, drugs, violence, vulgarity and profanity. Skirts must be below the fingertips. Middle-school boys can’t wear hats.
It’s important that everyone knows the rules, including teachers and administrators.
The mere mention of the words “dress code” conjures an image of the “Church Lady” from the old “Saturday Night Live” skits who saw evil and sensuality all around and would blot it out if she could. Central Valley’s dress code shouldn’t give teachers or administrators a license to impose their own moral values on what students wear. It’s likely, even with the stricter guidelines, that some Central Valley students will find ways to offend adults with their fashion statements.
In a perfect world, school districts should be able to count on parents to make sure their children are properly dressed for learning, even those of humble means. Often, however, adults, including some teachers, set the tone for trouble at school with their own improper dress, choices and conduct. With the new standards in place, even the most witless parents and students are without excuse.
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