A wee ramble on decency, school rules, dress codes and photoshop

by DaniGirl on May 30, 2014 · 2 comments

in Mothering without a licence

Much has been made of the perennial warm-weather debate about school dress codes recently. I’ve pretty much stayed out of the debates not because I don’t find it an interesting topic – I do! – but because I’m pretty ambivalent about the whole thing. I think the schools do have a right to establish and enforce a dress code, but I think they have to be consistent, fair and proactive in both communicating and enforcing it. I personally don’t see this as an issue of girl shaming, but if I were a girl again, I’d probably fight against it.

My (Catholic) high school had a dress code, and breaking that dress code was one of my favourite and only expressions of outright defiance as a teenager. The dress code called for navy blue pants or skirts, or a kilt in the school’s plaid, and a white or navy blue shirt with a collar. The hem of my kilt, I remember, fell closer to my hip bone than my knee bone, but no mention was ever made of skirt length. I don’t remember being allowed to wear shorts, and denim was strictly forbidden. My main source of miscreance was the collar – it was the 80s, and polos with collars were not hard to come by, but I abhorred them.

All this to say, we were all aware of the dress code and while we occasionally played fast and loose with it and rebelled against it and spent endless hours railing against the injustice of it, we knew if we got caught breaking it we would be paying a visit to the vice principal. With the perspective of 30+ years, I can imagine that Mr Fekete thought enforcing the dress code was just as much a waste of his time as an eduator and administrator as we did – but the rules and consequences were never in question.

My boys don’t seem to run afoul of their school’s dress code, so I don’t have a horse in this race. I’d be ticked if I were told my shorts were too short, and my bra strap is as we speak peeking rather disrespectfully out on my shoulder. In fact, on the day a young teen’s story appeared in the Citizen about how she and her mother were challenging her school’s policy against spaghetti straps, I walked through the business district of downtown Ottawa at lunch time and counted the number of visible bra straps I could see. It only took me about 15 minutes to get to a dozen. I’m not sympathetic to the argument that school teaches kids how to comport themselves for their future careers in the sartorial sense.

Speaking of sartorial sense and lack of it, I thought this was an interesting extention of that debate. Apparently a school in Utah decided to photoshop clothing extensions onto the yearbook photos of students who showed more skin than the school administration was happy with. Sleeves were added, tattoos were cloned out and necklines crept up to collarbones, all in the name of decency. And the school is apparently unapologetic, according to the article on PetaPixel: “For their part, the school does not apologize for editing the photos. They posted signs warning that this might be the case, and claim the students should have been expecting it. The only thing they apologize for is the fact that they weren’t more consistent with the edits.”

If this were my kid’s yearbook and her photo was edited, I’d hit the roof. Can you imagine? What’s next, we’ll just use the liquefy tool to thin out Mary’s pudgy face a bit, and oh we’d better airbrush out the worst of John’s acne. And poor Sally’s teeth are rather dull, don’t you think? We’ll just polish them up – and while we’re at it, maybe reduce the size of those buck teeth too.

I. Would. Flip.

I’ve seen great arguments on both sides of the dress code debate on Twitter and Facebook recently, and it reflects back to the question I asked not too long ago – what DO you do when you disagree with your child’s school’s policies? Is there merit in rebelling to bring attention to a policy you don’t like, or do you take a more concilliatory approach? Or maybe you think rules are made to be obeyed at all costs? And would you hit the roof if you saw your child’s yearbook photo had been edited for “decency” or other reasons?


{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Fran Donders May 31, 2014 at 9:32 am

Ah Dani – how life goes on – Since I too attended the same high school – i wouldn’t dare disobey the dress code – it wouldn’t be because of the vice principal but rather facing your granny when I got home (lol)

I remember being called to the school because your brother was not in dress code – I grabbed a dark blue sweater from the closet and rushed to the school thinking he must be wearing his yellow sweater. When I saw him in the principal’s office I was quite confused as he was wearing a very expensive blue and white striped sweatshirt. When I asked the principal what was wrong he said your brother was wearing a grey and white sweatshirt – I hit the roof – told him it was washed many times, showed him the navy blue tag on the collar and accused im of wasting my time – I was steaming

So much for dress codes – PS I hated my uniform too – on my last day of highschool I put it on the floor and stomped it into extinction

2 DaniGirl May 31, 2014 at 12:45 pm

Ha! I can’t believe I never heard that story!

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