Monday, June 16, 2014

Rules Are Rules Are Rules

Way back when, there was this group of guys who got all caught up in rules. They were so concerned what others were doing they didn't see how wrong they really were. This was so characteristic of their behavior that their name became an adjective -- "Pharisaical."

Enter the teachers at Central Davidson High School. Last week, senior Violet Burkhart wore a dress for her last day of school. With two hours left in the day, she was removed from classes and told she was being sent home because her dress was too short.

In this week's story, Mom wore the actual dress to Violet's graduation. I hadn't seen last week's story, but I was intrigued now. "This, I gotta see!"

Here are mom, Amy Redwine, and Violet in "the dress."

I went to a Christian school. And they measured! Our dress code stated skirts and dresses could be "no more than 3 inches above the knee." It was the '70s. You couldn't buy much that wasn't, but there it was. Standards seem much different now, but Violet's public high school is in Lexington, NC., assumption being, you're not in Philly anymore. I thought it was refreshing to see schools with more to their dress codes than "No Colors" and "Bras must be worn -- but with shirts over them."

That being said, allow me to remind you, 1) there were two hours left in the day, her last day, forever 2) this kid is all legs -- kudos to Mom for even finding a dress long enough, 3) she was sent home -- not corrected, explained the concern behind the rule, or the school's responsibility to encourage modesty in young ladies; not even furnished something out of the school store or asked to have other clothes brought for her.

In an interview Violet said she was told her skirt was half an inch too short. Now, I realize school officials could not allow that kind of anarchy. A half-inch today, and tomorrow they'll be showing up looking like Li'l Kim. I know what everyone knows about supervising large groups of people, especially teen people: If you let it go for one, you have to let it go for them all. The first time you make an exception, only makes it easier to do a second time, and a third, and so on.

NO! NO! And NO! Is this dress code about responsibility, self-respect, modesty, order, or what? Is this about the students or the staff? In their Civics classes (Do they still have them?) do they teach anything about the letter of the law, and the spirit of the law? Are they teaching and training individuals or practicing mind-melding? You guys deal with students every minute of the day, and you can't handle one 17(?)YO whose dress is half an inch out of compliance, on her last day ever??

Sarcasm and outrage aside, here was a great opportunity to teach this young adult about rules -- not just that we have them, they're necessary, they can't be broken, blah, blah, blah. What difference would it have made if a female teacher talked about her concern for Violet? Not, "I'm concerned you're going to grow up to be a tramp," but that these types of decisions are now going to be hers, that bad choices can stick with you. What if the teacher had shared an example from her life, or talked about self-respect? And, graciously allowed Violet to stay for the last 120 minutes of her high school life.

I don't know Violet. Maybe she's hell on wheels. Maybe she would have laughed in the teacher's face. But, now, thanks to this incident, I do know Central Davidson High School. Lucky for them, that's kind of tough to turn into an adjective.
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