School uniforms shift focus from clothes to character

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Re: “Dress code sexism, not girls’ clothing, creates distraction,” Wednesday:

A recent editorial stated that, “As an arm of government, school districts have no business regulating modesty.” Nevertheless, if a woman appears in public bare-breasted or a male butt-naked, is it appropriate for authorities to make these individuals get dressed? As a society we still purport to have some modicum of modesty, however limited. I would contend that school districts do have a role in regulating modesty. Someone has to set those parameters and in schools it is the board or building-level authorities.

The editorial continues stating that this regulation, “usurps parental authority.” In many instances there is no parental discretion or even concept of putting limits on children’s clothing choices. If, with parental approval a child were to wear a T-shirt to class with the image of an AR-15 and the words, “the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.” there would be a hue and a cry and that child would be sent home.

The idea that parental authority supersedes school authority is patently untrue. As G.K. Chesterton said, “Don’t take down the fences until you know why they were put up.” By claiming there is no role for schools to sanction “inappropriate dress,” we remove the fences called modesty and propriety.

During classroom discussions my students agreed that schools have to have dress codes. They stated that these rules are unevenly applied but could offer no better solutions. Those in the workplace said that requiring modest and appropriate attire, although subjective, is fitting and needed.

If private schools costing thousands in tuition require uniforms as part of their fomenting an esprit de corps and to lessen class distinctions, thus removing the focus from clothes to character, then why not public schools? The code could be khaki pants or shorts and plain collared shirts within a limited range of colors for males. Girls could wear either khaki skirts of defined length, shorts or pants and a collared shirt. Exceptions for religious attire could be made.

The devil is in the details, but people of good faith can reach an acceptable agreement.

Tom Haitema