Dress code sends the right message to adolescents

A debate about how adolescents — and even pre-adolescents — dress these days is a topic that covers a lot of ground, ranging from self-expression to familial relationships. One thing, though, still holds true — public schools should use whatever means reasonable to ensure that students and teachers spend as much time as possible on their studies.

Tuscola High School in Waynesville unveiled a new dress code this year that had some students crying foul. On examination, however, we found that Tuscola’s new rules are not nearly as strict as some other schools in the region and are, by almost all measures, very reasonable.

There is not an adult alive these days who hasn’t seen young girls who, for all intents and purposes, dress like strumpets on a street corner. Excuse the language, but it’s the truth. By the same standards, the rear-end showing pants with belts tightened around their thighs worn by teenage boys are just crude. Couple those with shirts with the sleeves cut off and slit down to the waist, and it’s too much.

Those are harsh judgments, but they are mostly true. If adolescents or adults want to dress that way as they go about their business each day, it’s no one’s business but their own. In a public school, however, it is entirely inappropriate.

This idea of public schools cracking down on inappropriate dress is not new. A generation ago it was guys wearing their hair long and girls forgetting their bras. Each generation has their standards and has to find the right remedy.

Look, it’s a tough road for public schools these days. The job of educating adolescents has never been easy, and distractions that come with too-short shorts, cleavage-showing shirts and pants torn to shreds just make it more difficult.

For the teachers, a dress code that leaves too much to interpretation is an even bigger problem. Tuscola’s approach makes enforcement simple, and it takes the onus off teachers who have enough to do already.

This issue is by turns comical and extremely sensitive. It is also very important. School should be about the education. Needless distractions should be eliminated when possible. Teaching adolescents how to conduct themselves in different social settings is a valuable lesson, and that’s just what a well thought out dress code can help accomplish.

The Naturalist's Corner

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