NO! I will not talk to your kid about it! You talk to your kid about it! -OR- How dress codes in school have very little to do with clothing.

So, this is a short and rather simple take on a complicated subject.  There are so many more factors at play than the ones I will mention.  The conversation I’m suggesting take place is much deeper that this post implies.  Basically I’m trying to highlight something that I see as the essence of the problem.  Thanks in advance for reading.

A dress code for students, both middle school and high school, is important.  As a parent and an educator, I really do see the need.  I will enforce the dress code as part of my job.  My job does not include explaining to the kid why there is a need for a dress code.  This is anathema to being an educator;  I really like explaining things and it’s a great opportunity for learning and debate.  The dress code conversation is way above my pay grade.  Would you like to know why?  Of course you do.  Let me explain, as best I can.

The reason that I’m not going to engage any student in the debate over dress code or try to explain to them the reasons behind it is, it’s not my job.  That lovely task falls to you, the parents.  But, Geoff, why should I have to defend the school’s policy?  It’s your policy, not mine.  Let me ask you something, dear parent:  Do you want me, an admittedly amazing person, talking to your preteen or teen about sex?  Your answer better be no.  Perhaps you’ll say that you don’t want me to talk to them about sex, but do want me to discuss the dress code.  Well, they are the same thing.  That’s why it’s difficult for any school to justify/explain/debate/enforce a dress code, and it’s also why a dress code is needed.  Your kids are changing in shape and hormone content.  They are also becoming more and more aware of their own bodies and the bodies of their peers. When it comes right down to it, puberty and all the changes that come with it are about reaching sexual maturity (not mental maturity). The changes are already screaming “Look at me! I’m fertile/virile! Let’s do it!” There’s a feeling if power that comes with these changes. You’re turning heads and having a visible effect on others. It’s about sex.

Your kids need be defined by more and noticed for more that long legs or cleavage.  The problem being that the media’s influence makes that harder and harder.  Peoples’ worth is so often and so unfairly tied to their appearance. This is not a new thing, but is so prevalent in our society that the battle against it is overwhelming.  It’s insidious and is present everywhere.  You don’t need me to point out to you all the ways that girls and women are told that their looks and attractiveness to others is the most important thing.

Fashion has always tried to test the limits of what society deems appropriate.  Teens are discovering themselves and the world around them and in the process they also want to test all boundaries.  I don’t want that to change.  That is innovation and is always needed.  This is not what we are talking about here.  We are talking about the broader lesson that our children need to be taught.  They are more than their physical appearance, more than the sex that will inevitably become a part of their lives, so much more.  As parents you can safely explain to your kid that they are beautiful and sexy and that they are also more than that.  There are times and places that are great for strutting your stuff and revelling in the physicality of being a teen.  Despite it being the most social place in a teen’s day, school just isn’t the place for that.  Some restraint is needed.  It’s up to you, the parent to explain this to your child. Please, please think about all of this before you complain about the school’s dress code or the enforcement of the dress code.
END OF PART ONE. Stay tuned.

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