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As Temperatures and Hemlines Soar: Why High Schools Need Dress Codes
Dress Codes Are Vital for Young Adult Success
Oh, the woes of the high school dress code. During the cooler months, things aren't so bad. Low temps keep the teens relatively bundled up. But, after spring break, you can count on dress code violations a-plenty. The typical culprit is a teenage girl trying to sneak past (or boldly stride past) rules on hemlines. In my school district, for example, shorts and skirts cannot rise more than three inches above the top of the kneecap. By spring final exams, this rule is frequently skirted. But, lest I be accused of sexism, teenage boys often violate dress code as well, usually through sagging their pants or shorts or wearing tank tops.
Once again, high school girls are protesting their dress code run-ins with school officials by blasting the dress codes as sexist. According to the Huffington Post, a high school senior in Toronto who got in trouble for a crop-top shirt protested that the rule was unfair to females. She, and many others, argue that it is wrong to limit girls' clothing options because boys and men cannot "control themselves." The broad argument is that dress code restrictions on females are meant to keep males from being distracted, which is grossly unfair.
"Why not just teach men to control themselves?" is, I believe, the final quip.
While the protesting young women may have a point, they fail to recognize the dress codes benefit everyone and do serve a valuable purpose. Firstly, I assume that many women do not want to be subjected to men wearing ultra short shorts, crop tops, and mesh. As a teacher, I can only imagine the looks of horror I would generate if I walked into the classroom showing my midriff. Yet, if anyone complained, I would ask why they were "sexualizing" my lack of full-body clothing.
"Perhaps you should look at why you thought my exposed belly button had a sexual connotation," I could say. Obviously, this scenario has no positive outcome. Students and parents would be outraged, and I would probably be hastily removed from my teaching position. But was I wrong? No.
The young women protesting that their bodies should not be sexualized are certainly not wrong, but they fail to recognize that dress codes work the same way when genders are reversed. I assume that we want to prevent our high school boys from wearing whatever ridiculous outfits they want in girls' faces. Would some girls be distracted? Inevitably. Are they wrong to "sexualize" the boys' outfits? Yes.
In our hormone-laden high schools, no good will come of letting students bare body parts that would, in a [non-sexual] workplace environment, be covered.
The second reason we need dress codes in high school is to prepare our young men and women to be the professionals of tomorrow. Failing to instruct teens on what is acceptable to wear can lead to massive, career-limiting faux pas later on. Young men and women showing up to office job interviews in tank tops, crop-tops, and flip-flops are unlikely to ever hear back from those hiring managers. While dressing provocatively in one's teens may indeed be free speech, it can cost them dearly if it carries over into their career search.
Teens can exercise their freedom of expression in terms of clothing when they are outside of school. A dress code at school does not create an undue burden for freedom of expression and, in fact, a great many of today's teens will have to get used to wearing - gasp! - uniforms as adult professionals. Wear your crop-top to the mall but cover up your belly button in my classroom.