It never ceases to amaze me how common sense in enforcing school rules is lacking. Consider dress codes (“Is Your Body Appropriate to Wear to School?,” The New York Times, Apr. 19). Even when parents buy in to the policy, it is no guarantee of its success.
I have in mind now the case of a 17-year old at Braden River High School in Bradenton, Fla. who didn’t wear a bra because of a painful sunburn. Realizing that she was in violation of the school’s dress code, she wore an oversized T-shirt to conceal her nipples. Rather than accept her reasonable explanation, school administrators humiliated her.
This is another example of how zero tolerance policies have backfired when schools have refused to back down in the face of plausible excuses. The girl in question used sound judgment, but that was not enough to get her off the hook. When I was teaching in the Los Angeles Unified School District, I remember vividly the result of a ban on short skirts that did not meet the stipulated length. All it did was create countless hours of work for administrators, who summoned the girls to their offices and used a ruler to determine if the girls were in violation.
I have nothing against school dress codes, including uniforms, but I think they have to be reasonable in light of changing fashions. In the final analysis, they can succeed when flexibility is used.
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