Tax-Free shopping week in Maryland begins today and many folks might be heading to stores to do a little back to school shopping. The apparel on sale may be nice, but it doesn’t always meet with the HCPSS Dress Code. I’m starting my 17th year in education and I’ve come to learn that students (and parents too) don’t always get what the dress code is really about. Most people can appreciate the fact that schools aren’t the best place to promote drugs and weapons on your T-shirt, but references in policy to “unduly exposing or revealing skin or undergarments” often get misconstrued.
School dress codes have been at the center of several controversies across the country mainly because of issues with enforcement inadvertently favoring boys and questions about language in policies that suggest clothing can be distracting and/or compromising to the learning environment. I’m not here to split hairs about the language of policies or get into a debate about our policies or those of other school systems. What I can tell you is how I view the dress code:
I see the dress code as part of our school (and school system’s) mission–to help students become college and career ready. When people go to work, there are certain expectations and perhaps even written rules about what to wear. Our job at Howard is to help students learn how to learn the complex and sometimes unspoken rules of society, how to live in that world, how to thrive in it. Following rules is a part of that process. We may not always agree with the rules, but we are required to follow them. I’d prefer to drive faster than 55 sometimes, but the rules state that 55 is the limit and I know there are consequences if I choose to break that rule.
There are a lot of great outfits on the rack and I’m sure you look good in the threads you’re trying on, but ask yourself if it’s an outfit for home or an outfit for school. Get a 2nd opinion if you’re not sure, but I will tell you that, most of the time, when you’re on the fence about appropriateness, it’s best to err on the side of caution. Our staff doesn’t enjoy addressing students about the dress code (or any concern for that matter). We would prefer that it not be an issue we have to bring up with students or their parents. The discussions after a violation can be kind of awkward at times, which is why I offer this preemptive suggestion for Back to School shopping.
Good luck shopping and see you in a couple of weeks!