The Weakley County School’s dress code policy has been a subject of much controversy the past few weeks. I remember when the dress code changed when my son was in school, and the first and strictest policy for dress code was put into effect. Children in Middle and High School had to wear solid color shirts with a collar, solid color pants, etc. — you all know the dress code. I remember hating it for my son because I always remembered dressing to express myself and wanted the same for him.
Obion County does not have a dress code policy like this, although they did previously, but reverted back to their previous policy. Henry County also does not have the strict policy that Weakley does, nor does Carroll County. So, the question parents have been asking is why?
WCS board member Wendell Cates stated at the last board meeting, “You gotta have some type of code or kids will take it to the extreme.” Yes, kids tend to try to break barriers, but that is why dress codes are enforced and those kids are disciplined. But should all kids be punished for a few that don’t follow policy? Do kids not break the dress code even as it stands? One board member even said something about the possibility of kids wearing an Anthrax band T-shirt. I guarantee you that most kids these days don’t even know what band that is and that just shows how disconnected current board members are from what is popular with kids in today’s society.
What doesn’t make sense is the last argument regarding solid-colored T-shirts being worn was that many school board members called it a “distraction.” I find this extremely, for lack of a better word, asinine. Allow me to explain. The dress code states that a student may wear a jacket, sweater or hoodie in a solid color (it doesn’t have to be spirit wear) and the student can wear this sweater or jacket all day. So, with that being said, solid colored outerwear can be worn in the building and that’s not distracting, but a solid-colored shirt is? However, a tie dye or camo shirt can be worn as long as it is spirit wear. Make it make sense, because you can’t.
Now, let’s look at the research that has been done. In an article published last year by the U.S. Government Accountability Office, where they studied over 236 school districts, they found discrepancies in apparel that was banned, as well as enforcement of the dress code, which their report showed targeting black students, LGBTQ+ students and females. This is because dress codes normally require that clothing worn by females not be revealing or distracting — even going so far as to label shoulders and knees distracting. Seems to me that parents’ ought to teach their boys not to be distracted by a girl’s shoulder — whatever will they do when they get out of high school if they are distracted by shoulders in class? Even elementary school females are prohibited from showing their shoulders. Again — make it make sense. How is a small child’s shoulder’s distracting? And who is distracted?
Another study by Gretchen Marie Whitman titled, A Curricular Critique of School Dress Codes states, “Implementing dress codes ultimately results in inconsistent practices and violations of students’ rights. To the detriment to student learning, dress codes disproportionately affect girls and students of color embodying them as sexualized and inferior. Females are treated like objects while males are assumed to be incapable of controlling their sexual desires. School dress codes have been adopted as a means of controlling student behavior without fully exploring the relationship between curriculum and virtue. The current inconsistent dress code policies in schools violate curriculum theorists’ calls for a caring, democratic classroom environment. As part of the hidden curriculum in schools, dress codes serve to perpetuate oppression of females and minorities, thereby promoting the hegemony of the white male.”
While districts imposing these policies have always claimed that they allow for less distractions, more attention paid by students in class and better behavior, the studies don’t show that strict dress codes improve these things at all. As a matter of fact, they show the opposite.
Another thing that has always bothered me about the WCS Dress Code Policy is why the teachers and staff don’t have to follow it? If it’s good for the kids to wear so they won’t be distracted, then how are teacher’s clothing not distracting? Again — make it make sense. And I’ve heard those say the uniforms allows for less bullying of those children that can’t afford brand names – well then why allow a brand name no bigger than a business card to be allowed on polos? Do they think children can’t differentiate from those wearing Nike or Under Armour and those wearing Walmart polos?
And lastly, I noticed that the policy states that students cannot wear clothing shorter than the top of their kneecap when standing, but apparently this doesn’t apply to cheerleaders and sports uniforms, because those skirts and shorts are way shorter than the top of the kneecap.
Thanks for listening to my soapbox — if parents want a change they need to come together and contact their school board members and express their concerns. And maybe, just maybe — the board will research studies done and see that these policies need to be revised.