Something More Comfortable

Every morning that I have gone into the office at the middle school, there has been one or two or three students standing at the front desk talking to the secretary. The secretary says softly, and so kindly, “I’m sorry, but you can’t wear sleeveless, Honey,” or “Your shorts are higher than two inches above the knee.”

This morning, the secretary was explaining to a very pretty young lass, “I don’t… think… you’re allowed to wear a shirt that says ‘I love to fart’…Let me check…” (Turning to the guidance counselor who was passing through) “Are they allowed to wear a shirt that says, ‘I love to fart?’”

“NO! They CAN-NOT wear a shirt that says that!” answered the guidance counselor.

“I’m sorry, Honey. Is there someone who can pick you up or bring you a change of clothes?”

And the girl stood there doe-eyed and confused. It was apparently the first she’d heard of these codes of dress, and her mother had already gone to work.

“I’ll get you a t-shirt from the lost and found.”

A lost and found t-shirt may be the worst possible consequence, I’m thinking, for those with a mind towards fashion.

I drove away worrying about a t-shirt I picked up recently for the boys to wear that had a picture of a sushi on it with the words “That’s just how I roll.” One of them just discovered that he actually really likes sushi, but now I’m wondering if the shirt really is just about sushi rolls? Can a sushi shirt even be made these days without a troublesome subtext?

In any case, I share because some people might feel comforted that there is yet a standard of decency in the world that has not been crushed, that at a public school in a small town in Indiana there are students going home every single day to change into something more appropriate.

About Elizabeth Duffy
  • Caroline Moreschi

    I went to a Southern Baptist school where the dress code changed on almost a monthly basis trying to keep up with trends. When I was in middle school a student was beaten up for wearing a t-shirt with a Confederate flag (it was Georgia; unfortunately that’s not an uncommon fashion statement). Given the location, the school couldn’t really ban Confederate apparel without parents rebelling, so they banned all shirts with images – you could wear stripes, solids, etc, but nothing with an image, including an American flag, puppies, etc. My mom was furious because we’d already bought my school clothes, most of which had offensive images like butterflies and flowers. I guess they were trying to avoid the exchange you described.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/duffy/ Elizabeth Duffy

      I guess they’ve got to draw a line in the sand somewhere. It is a bit of a crapshoot trying to figure out what’s allowed to go to school and what’s not– between dress code regulations and allergy alerts. One of my kids has a cross necklace made of two nails that he got from RE, and I told him not to wear it to school, not because of its religious symbolism, but because it might be construed as a weapon.

      Incidentally, there was a big rebel flag hullaballoo at my high school in the nineties also.

  • joannekehoe

    I started high school in 1982, a loooong time ago, and I almost never came up against this stuff, largely because in high school in NJ in the early 80′s, we weren’t wearing short skirts or exposing much skin. Toward the end of my high school career, there were more Madonna-like dressed girls, but there was nothing – NOTHING like what goes on today. I don’t mean that in a ‘in my day we were respectful!’ kind of way, I just think because of my particular time in high school, showing a lot of skin wasn’t the problem. I remember a classmate of mine got in trouble because he wore a shirt that said F**k all over it, I couldn’t believe his mother let him out of the house like that. I only have one in school so far but I am glad that she a) wears a uniform and b) thinks it’s GREAT. I’m sure that will change but I’m enjoying it now!

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/duffy/ Elizabeth Duffy

      I also think uniforms are awesome. I kind of miss them.

    • Caroline Moreschi

      In some ways it’s gotten better since I was in school (about 10 years ago). Then it was hard to find shirts to cover your stomach, since low-rise pants and short shirts were all the rage. Now they have those really long shirts, which makes it much easier (and looks better on everyone too).

  • Kristen

    Our public elementary and middle schools have uniforms. Best decision ever. And Wal-Mart carries them, so their inexpensive too which is good at the rate my kids outgrow things.

  • JMB

    I think there are two assumptions which aren’t true: the first is that all public school kids dress like sluts and gangsters and that conversely, private/parochial girls with uniforms hike them up just as high as they can get away with. I’ve found with my high school aged kids (both public/private) that the kids are more interested in “fitting in” with their clothes than being an outlier. I’ve found that both the public and private schools that my children have attended have been run by administrators who want their schools to succeed. The kids don’t run the show.

  • Erin Pascal

    I am assuming that some students will roll their eyes and curse in front of the secretary. But this is a good thing, there should be order in schools where children learn. Apparently, in this school, they are not only educating the mind but instilling good morals as well. I do agree on uniforms, it makes things a lot better and helps avoid conflicts with stubborn students.


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