Thursday, July 9, 2009

Pontiac School District Adopts Dress Code

I am a big fan of school dress codes. Every school (and I would even suggest this for those who homeschool) should implement some sort of dress code so that the students are dressed modestly, neatly, and non-disruptively.

The Detroit News carried a story today that the Pontiac School District will have a new uniform dress code, effective with the start of the 2009-10 school year. From the article:

From preschool through 12th grade, students must wear solid black, khaki or navy dress pants or slacks, knee-length dresses, jumpers, shorts or skirts. Students must wear white, navy, or light blue collared shirts and blouses with long or short sleeves. Turtlenecks of the same colors as shirts and blouses are also permitted.

Beginning the second semester of the 2009-10 school year, blazers may be required for students in grades 7-12.

There are also a number of things not permitted, such as

    Clothing that will no longer be permitted includes:

  • Jeans or denim fabrics (unless permitted for a school spirit day or a dress-down day)
  • Tight fitting or baggy, oversized clothing
  • Team jerseys (can be worn only when permitted), T-shirts, sweatshirts, tank tops, spaghetti straps, strapless or halter-tops or sheer, see-through blouses
  • Sweat suits, jogging attire, athletic shorts, fleeces, loungewear or sleepwear
  • Hooded tops
  • Headgear, including hats, headbands, scarves, do-rags, stocking caps, bandanas and baseball caps
  • Any clothing, jewelry, symbol or other object that can be perceived by a staff member as evidence of membership/affiliation with a gang
  • Designer brand sunglasses or dark glasses (if prescribed, medical documentation needed)
  • Designer brand stitched leather jackets
  • Outerwear such as gloves, jackets and overcoats in the buildings
I think that this is good. However, let's analyze a few aspects of this, beginning with...

Reasons the District Gives for Having a Dress Code:
  • Promote respect for self and others. I think I see what they mean by this, but I would have worded it differently. Dressing in a more professional or neater manner tends to make one think more highly of one's abilities and tends to have the effect of more, and more positive, achievement.
  • "To prevent distractions and health and safety hazards that disrupt the educational environment." No argument there. The last thing schools need is problems stemming from students' clothing.
  • It was noted in the article that the two Pontiac high schools are merging into a single high school this year, and that this will tend to help the students "blend in" better and become a more cohesive group. This is probably good, and will help to avoid the factions that might come from a "I went to ___ last year" mentality.
  • Waivers for religious or medical reasons will be considered. Penalties have been established.
Now let me add some more to this:

Additional Reasons the District Should Have a Dress Code:
  • Students need to learn how to look and dress like mature adults. Most public school students, quite frankly, dress like slobs in jeans and T-shirts. It is good for them to become accustomed to the dress and manners of adults. For this particular reason, I am not a fan of uniforms, although they are still preferable to the "jeans and T-shirts" look.
  • Dress for success: There is plenty of evidence showing that students' dress has an impact on their accomplishments in school.
  • Most students are going to have a job someday where they will have to conform to a dress code. Might as well get the idea now. (On a related note, I think it's OK to kindly and politely communicate to students that adults know better than they do on these sorts of things. Some students think they are the fountainhead of all knowledge and wisdom. This is nothing more than pride and arrogance.)
What will be interesting to see is if the dress code actually gets enforced. Whenever there are no penalties, the dress code is ignored; and when there are penalties, people get mad. About ten years ago, when I lived in Jacksonville, that school district adopted a uniform dress code...then let parents opt out their kids...then by the end of the school year, it was nothing more than a bad joke, engendering disrespect for the authorities who came up with the dress code in the first place.

Dress codes without consistent enforcement become a cure worse than the original illness.

I commend the Pontiac school board for their decision and hope that they stand up for it during the upcoming school year.


Brenda Brough said...

Our local public school district has had a pretty strict "standard of dress" policy for some time now, and judging by what I see walking down my street after school is out, it works pretty well. I hear they mean what they say in the handbook and have a fairly low tolerance for violators. I think it's a great idea. They still have their fair share of behavior problems in the high school inspite of the uniform, but overall it's much better than what the teenagers would be wearing without a dress code. You can view the school policy here:

quigonjames said...

So let's stifle any spark of creativity or personality early on so that they can be good little worker drones. Strict dress codes are idiotic, maybe some guidelines instead.

Ken said...

Dress codes are a good thing. There will never (ever, ever) be universal agreement on where to draw the lines, but that's not the point. Please reference the first paragraph of the post.

quigonjames said...

That's my point though, who's to say what constitutes modest, neat and non-disruptive clothing. Shirts and ties, or perhaps something more casual like polo shirts. This isn't the 50's anymore, children are maturing much faster than they used to. Let them make some decisions for themselves. And I didn't say dress codes were a bad thing, I said STRICT dress codes are a bad thing.