What strength does a policy have if the teeth initially put into it are pulled one by one? Not very much in our estimation. And that’s why we don’t believe the Sampson County Board of Education should water down its dress code policy as currently proposed.
Stopping short of uniforms, the dress code, initiated a few years back, lays out the appropriate clothing for K-12 students to wear and, just as importantly, the manner in which those close are to be worn. For example, sagging pants aren’t permissable nor are untucked shirts.
The policy, which took months and many parent meetings to hammer out, has been a good one and, remarkably, hasn’t drawn that much ire.
So why would school board members even consider revamping it now? The answer lies with principals who have suggested that high school students should be treated a little differently than those in elementary and middle schools. They want the school board to OK a change to the policy that allows untucked shirts as long as those shirts don’t hang below a student’s crotch area.
Board members are divided, with some siding with high school students and noting that flexibility with teenagers is important, signaling to them that adults are listening to their concerns. Other school board members took the hard line approach, saying the policy should be an across-the-board one —if it’s good enough for the younger students, it should be OK for the high-schoolers as well.
We agree with the latter.
While the tuck-in rule doesn’t come without its problems, particularly for overweight students, it is part of the larger dress code mandate approved by the school board, and it should remain as it is. The policy was implemented for many reasons, including safety, and shouldn’t be changed at a whim.
Beside the change is about far more than the policy; it’s about the example. What lessons do we teach children if they are made to dress one way through eighth grade only to be given leeway to dress another when they arrive at the high school? What do we teach if we knuckle under when enforcement of a policy is so difficult that we would prefer to amend it rather than ensure it is followed?
The hope is that those student who have been made to tuck their shirts in since kindergarten won’t even consider doing differently when they step foot in the high school, nor cause major enforcement policies along the way. But give leeway and allow students to see that they are being treated differently than their high school counterparts — many of them their brothers and sisters — and pretty soon parents and students, alike, will seek the same kind of differential treatment.
And why shouldnt’ they?
What’s more, how can school board members turn a deaf ear to those requests if they’ve granted it for high school students?
And, when that happens, there goes the policy.
The dress code made sense. Watering it down doesn’t.