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A Crime of Fashion

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There are no bars on the windows, but Texas’ Gonzales High School could start to resemble a prison. A new policy at the school, located 70 miles east of San Antonio, states students who violate the dress code will be required to wear an inmate-style navy blue jumpsuit to class if they refuse to attend in-school suspension or don’t change their clothes, The Houston Chronicle reported.

“We’re a conservative community, and we’re just trying to make our students more reflective of that,” Gonzales Independent School District deputy superintendent Larry Wehde said. Dress code violations include spaghetti-strap tank tops, baggy clothes, miniskirts, clothes that reveal underwear, and earrings on male students. T-shirts have recently been added to the list, with students now expected to wear collared shirts.

Although school officials hope the policy will lessen clothing distractions in class, senior class president Jordan Meredith says some students plan to fight the policy by turning the jumpsuits into a fashion statement, even going as far as to say they will purposefully violate the dress code or purchase their own coveralls. “They’ll see it as an opportunity to be like, rebels,” he said. “I don’t think there’s going to be enough jumpsuits for everyone.”

18 Comments

With all due respect, I must question the moral reasoning of Superintendent Whede. Is he really going to make students look and think "conservative"?
Are humiliation and coercion appropriate community values?

Student dress code stops other students from teasing other students who cannot afford all of the "in" clothes. It evens the playing field and stops classroom disruption over trivial matters concerning students that are just plain rude to others. For those who think a jumsuit is "fashionable", they should spend a day or two locked up where jumpsuits ARE the dress code and revisit their perspectives on what is really the more important factor - their education. They need to understand that their job may require a uniform or dress code. Non-compliance will get them fired. Grow up folks, these kids will be running your city one day, one way or another.

At the outset, I thought that this would be a good idea for our school. Having thought about it a little in the writing below, I think that my version would be fantastic.

Our school has a school uniform and a school uniform policy, but there are still times where students will "forget" to wear their uniform. The solution is wonderful, but I might prefer gaudy orange uniforms instead.

An articulated concern written in response to the article was that students will take this opportunity to stand out from everyone else, and make a point of the situation. I am not sure that this would be a problem if handled in this way.

Should a student not be in school dress policy, then a ramping up of consequences might be in order:

1. If this is the first infraction, the gaudy prison wear option could be used. It is a quick and easy fix. It keeps students in school, and calls attention to their bad behaviour.

2. After a set number of infractions, it would be appropriate to ramp up the disciplinary options, e.g. being sent home.

There should be some flexibility here. If there are uniforms available, then option one can be used a lot. However, should the number of available uniforms (perhaps having 5 per 1000 students) be the issue, then the remaining students should be sent home for the day.

I don't think that this wonderful prison -wear option be the only option. It should be used as one of the ways to keeping students in school and promoting compliance.

As for our school, perhaps we could have "loaner" embroidered on the back of uniform shirt with perhaps a code, numbering them.

Students are not allowed to alter their uniforms, and yet the "loaner" aspect would draw attention to their non-compliance, etc., .

This short article has made me think, and I believe espouses a version to a method that might work for schools with uniform policies. Thank you.

I saw on the History Channel some time back about prison life. One young man went into prison for theft. When he walked into the prison the first thing he said was "Hey, this is just like my old High School!"

I would much rather have the student in my classroom learning than to have the student miss a portion of the educational lesson because the student was wearing a t-shirt. Were students included on the panel to discuss and decide on the school district's dress code policy? If not, they should have been.

Make the schools smaller, fire these ridiculous principals and superintendents, let the teachers run the school, and set the focus onto what and how the students best learn. Please let it be that simple. Spend more time on what will make the awkward hormone infested years of teendom more exciting, engaging and creatively challenging for our children. Uniforms set the standard of preparing a community of oppressive boring conformist lemmings - what a waste of precious time for our youth. These administrative sadists parading as 'educators' who want to torture kids instead of prepare them to take over and make a better country and world, need to be locked up and kept as far away from young peoples minds and behaviour as possible. It is a sad and scary commentary that we still have ridiculous converstaions like this in the 21st century, in the US. Wake up!

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.

Any district "government" that removes rights from students - who must understand the Constitution - remove the beliefs that we exist ONLY as we respect our freedom. Teach people, teach - punishment is NEVER respected, nor effective.

I've been all over the world and my fellow Americans are the only ones who go ballistic over uniforms. What's the problem? We all wear respectful clothes to a funeral. We wear prescribed type clothes to a wedding. If we want to show our individuality we can wear whatever we want after school. Consider this, when my family moved from South Carolina to Australia, our eldest said he'd never wear a uniform. I told him, "when in Rome, do as the Romans. When we got there the most unexpected event happened. All the children wore uniforms, but instead of taking the morning time before leaving for school to forage for clothes that matched or simply to primp, the whole family (including our 11th grader) stayed in the kitchen and talked. We had plenty of time to relate b/c there was no time taken for fashion, just family and school matters! We learned an important lesson about when fashion should be foremost in our minds - and it wasn't before or during school, but afterward when it impacted the children's real personality and not the schools.

For the person who has been all over the
world. I recommend England to you then. They do wear uniforms. I commend the school for trying to do what PARENTS are suppose to be already doing. I am aware that parents can not police their children, however, small infractions can lead to larger ones. And when those larger ones occur your children/students then come to my classroom where students do wear those uniforms that are spoken of in one of these comments. They have no choice. If we TEACH our children to obey the smaller rules then maybe they will follow the larger laws. We may not always agree with the laws, but violations can mean consquences. And students and children need to understand that there are consquences for EVERY decision we make. Some are good, others are not.
As for the comment concerning the Declaration of Independence, we are not declaring a revolution. However, to help you understand it better let us look at drunk driving - after someone violates drinking and driving their license is removed. Otherwise it can cost another human being their life. Yes, we can compare the two. Violations of rules CAN later lead to disrespect of the laws of your town, state, and nation. Your rights and liberties were bought with a price. Treat them will respect and that includes following rules and laws. If the students have grievances concerning this matter there are other (peaceful) ways of addressing them. If you have trouble believing that then I suggest you conside Martin L King Jr.
If parents are UNWILLING to teach their children respect for the rules then someone else will have to and that seems to fall more and more on the school districts. Respect for rules and laws begins in the home - disrespect begins when the home doesn't exist or no one there cares. In an ever busy and changing world parents SHOULD all agree their children come first. Teaching them principles such as responsibility as a citizen, morals, principles and yes, obeying laws and rules SHOULD be top on the list of parenting.
And the parents should have been there when school clothes were purchased to begin with or have held their children accountable for what was purchased. It is unfortunate that the school has to even consider this option. I commend you for your efforts to teach to your students what they apparently are not learning anywhere else - home or church or peers.

What type of students are we trying to create with rules like this? It seems we want a student who:
-unquestioningly obeys authority
-values safety over freedom
-wears a uniform
-sits quietly and absorbs information
-is "conservative"
-suppresses self-expression

This sounds like the perfect worker . . . for the 19th century! Wake up people! Have you looked at what business leaders want from the new generation of workers? They stress things like.

-ability to critically analyze situations and problems
-willingness to take calculated risks
-ability to analyze and work in dynamic social groups
-flexible lifelong learners
-ability to think “outside the box”

Hmm. Seems the complete opposite of the way we are going. Watch this video. http://www.youtube.com/lifeatgoogle. Do the rules at many high schools prepare students to work at Google? Funny, I didn’t see uniforms. I didn’t see people sitting quietly in desks. I did see T-shirts and perhaps an earring on a male! Despite that, Google seems to be doing well.

Yes, there are problems out there. Yes, there is social inequity. Yes, there are lousy parents. Yes, there is lack of respect for rules. But are we really addressing those problems?

Uniforms don’t teach students how to dress properly, they simply avoid the problem. Intelligent Dress codes (by that I mean ones that don’t criminalize T-shirts and earrings on a boy) give kids a scaffold in which to figure out who they are and what is appropriate. Uniforms take away that chance to learn. And to the poster who said that dress codes prevent teasing of kids without the “in” clothes. Sorry, but I have worked in a uniform school and I, a socially clueless teacher, could have lined up my students by socioeconomic status. If I could tell, you know the kids could tell.

Respect for rules? Of course many students don’t have respect for rules! They are often stupid rules. Here’s a test. Take each of the rules at your school and try to explain in one simple sentence why they are fair to everyone involved. Chances are you will find that many of your school rules benefit the teachers and administrators at the expense of the student. If I were in high school, I would lack respect for those rules as well. I find it particularly ironic that one poster above admonishes us to obey all rules big or small, whether we like them or not and then uses Dr. King as an example! Dr. King BROKE RULES. He broke them because they were unfair. He broke them because they were morally reprehensible. He broke them because they were wrong! Yes, he knew there would be consequences. Do you think the students who break this dress code will on purpose and wear jump suits think there won’t be consequences?

The Declaration of Independence wasn’t just a call to revolution, it was a bold statement of belief. We all deserve to be free and we are required to help secure the freedom of those around us. It also says that this process is difficult. Are we teaching out students those American values, or are we taking the easy way out?

I work at a high school and I really think this dress code issue is out of hand. The main purpose for the uniformed dress code at the schools where I have worked has been related to safety issues for the students as well as the staff. Baggy and ill fitting clothing is the perfect place for a student to hide a weapon, sometimes a large weapon. The skimpy clothing worn by the ladies, the sagging pants that expose underwear, and the offensive language on t-shirts and other garments need to addressed, too. The ladies are subjected to unwanted comments and advances from their peers. We know the teachers have been accused of having inappropriate relationships with these students as well. In some instances, the teacher is the intended target anyway.

I personally believe that the students' individuality and creativity should be fostered in our learning environments but not at the expense of our safety, maintaining crowd control and effective classroom management. Must I bring to our remembrances Columbine High School, Jonesboro, AK, Lincoln High School in NJ, and the list goes on.

It has been my experience that schools are overcrowded, parents are not as involved as they should be and students that are the frequent violators are not really interested in attending school anyway.

With NCLB teachers are being held more accountable as should the parents of the children we work with 6-7 hours a day, 180 days out of the year.

First of all Mr. Wehde is not the Superintendent. He is an Asst. Superintendent and a spokesperson for the district. Much of this story has been blown out of proportion. The dress code has not changed much from previous years. The only major changes is the shirts that students wear must have a collar and sleeves (any logo or design must be less than 2" square); they may however, choose to wear approved spirit t-shirts. Also, the students may not wear flip-flops, oversized shirts OR jeans, and the jeans should not have frayed hems or rips and tears, and shorts and skirts should be knee length. I am not sure about younger grades but this is the dress code for 5-12 grades. As a parent of a Senior who has battled for years about what my son wants to wear to school it does make things easier. The "Jumpsuit" in question is only one option for students who choose to or fail to follow the dress code that is set into policy by the Board of Trustees. The student has the chance to call someone to bring them a change of clothes or attend In-School-Suspension, but if they want to remain in class and can't reach a parent or someone to bring them something else to wear they will wear the jumpsuit. There has been a lot of parents who are upset about the timing on the Board's decision to implement this policy, but the first day of school at the High School (enrollment approx. 600) there were less than 15 students in ISS and none wore the jumpsuit. Any infractions were corrected immediatelty. Apparently something is working...

Two communities with in 30 miles have had the same dress code policy for several years. I am not sure about the "jumpsuit" with these schools.

If you are interested in the actual dress code in question see the following link...

http://www.gonzales.txed.net//index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=36&Itemid=1

I think we are blowing the idea of being free out of proportion. As far as I see it if you don't like the rules then leave and send your child to another school where there are no rules or rules that are designed for your liking. This is more that enough freedom to choose where you want to go and have freedom to do what you prefer. But don't disrupt an orderly or peaceful environment to please your personal preference, fashion or liking. In this world you just cannot please everyone. You just have to stick to your values or stick with people who share the same values. But don’t try to change someone’s value to suit yours. Just simply leave. You cannot go into a person’s house and change the rules. Just simply requesting to wear the correct uniform is not inhumane. If you don't want to wear the correct uniform then you wear the alternative provided or go elsewhere. You have a choice which is freedom. You cannot tell me to keep my house dirty and accompany you in living in a mess. I guess being free for the wrong reasons have caused terrorist to do what they like. Just imagine what this world would be like if people were free to break the laws/rules of a land, country or state. If a school has a culture in maintaining a certain regard for uniform then either you abide by it or you go to another that suits your culture.

Looking neat/tidy/representable is not a crime.

Interestingly, these are ways to prevent molestations and abuse. Making sure of a standard dress code can lessen a lot of problems. There are just some people who wear the skimpiest of clothing in the wrong place at the wrong time. When you are in a situation where children are dressed in a way in which they are consistently adjusting their clothing to cover their nakedness is just not intended for school. Children should be free to play run and jump without consistently pulling up or down to cover up. It means they are aware that they are being exposed. On the other hand some just don’t know or don’t care. But I don’t like seeing boys with their pants waist all the way down under their bottom among other things. Girls shouldn’t be wearing spaghetti straps that are consistently fall off their shoulders and exposing too much of their cleavage. Skirts are sometimes too short that they are exposing their underwear if not more. This is one of the main reasons there are uniforms or a dress code to prevent any questioning of this nature. Honestly there are parents who just don’t know how to use their discretion in buying appropriate clothing for their children. Therefore it is left up to the schools to train the children how to dress decently (or provide uniforms) if their parents know no better.

My school has no uniform and the dress code is determined by the "student voice" group working in conjunction with respectful teachers on the basis of safety covering of feet and body in science labs, etc. We see no point in fighting green hair, mohawks, nail polish, or even body piercings if the parents support these expressions of individuality. This takes away 90% of the resentment students feel towards teachers as authority figures and as a result we have good relationships based on "mutual consideration" of which dress is just one aspect. Students also bring mobile phones, home laptops, USBs and i-pods into class, and all of this is managed cordially and reasonably effectively. Infringements are dealt with at an individual level and with home group tutors and parents involved as required. Look at our website to see how our students dress. Our students are not selected on academic merit, but often self-select on the basis of the ethos of this school after observation days and interviews. Discipline issues are extremely low and student pride and teacher morale high.

The challenges are significant. We are required to create safe learning environments where hearts and minds are educated every day. We are charged with academic skill development to high levels of proficiency for every student. We are expected to teach pro-social behaviors to help our students become caring, conscientious, responsible, and respectful citizens. These lofty goals are supposed to be achieved in the midst of gang violence, prolific drug use, families in crisis, homelessness, the list goes on. While I don't necessarily agree with the jumpsuits, I can understand the frustration. Still, I believe that there is a better way. The research is clear. Adverse consequences don't fix the problem. Bigger sticks are not the answer. Positive systems of behavioral supports that include explicit and direct teaching of pro social behaviors do make a difference. Students in our school who wear inappropriate clothing have the opportunity to call home and get something that is appropriate. If they are unable to get the clothes from home, we have clean teeshirts and shorts that are acceptable. They are good name brand items that students aren't embarrassed to wear. It seems to work well for us.

How utterly fitting. Prison-style uniforms to go with the lock-step, prison-style schooling that both teachers and students must endure. And, of course, the kids will use their creativity to make the new rules fun and cool for them, and those creative rebel teachers will aid and abet them, and we will have ramped up only one more in an endless parade of distractions that keep us all from putting our energy into making the whole structure of school more creative.

Here's a startling idea: Let's expend all this energy at breaking down the barriers for kids AND teachers and creating small-school, small-group environments where every day isn't a stand-off and all kids aren't dealt with in packs. A more personalized setting for everyone would eliminate the need for teachers to become skilled lion-tamers before anyone listens to what they have to say. I know, risky ideas, but I think it's way past time to reinvent this top-heavy, bureaucratic, and nearly paralyzed system. www.ChangeTheSchools.com

I worked at a middle school in south Texas and our dress code for the students was made to penalize the teachers on the campus, NOT the students. If a student violated the dress code, we sent the student to the office, where they were returned with a note saying, "Don't waste my time with this!" But sure don't get caught ignoring the dress code. If a teacher didn't write up a student, these same administrators would chastize you in the hallway, in front of the students and that would go on the teacher's record. UNBELIEVABLE!!! As for the students - there wasn't enough rope around to tie up the pants, nor enough extra shirts for the offenders to do any good in a school of 1,100 students. They won and they knew it. Only the teachers lost.

The person wanting their student not missing any class, but learning the lesson. This was a critical comment on uniforms, and the administration of them.

I think that student IS learning something, and something more fundamental and integral to what subject is being missed.

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  • Leo Oja: The person wanting their student not missing any class, but read more
  • D. Simon: I worked at a middle school in south Texas and read more
  • Changemkr: How utterly fitting. Prison-style uniforms to go with the lock-step, read more
  • Pat Consoliver: The challenges are significant. We are required to create safe read more
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