There have been numerous news articles and headlines circulating lately about issues arising from dress codes in schools. I think these issues frequently and regularly come up in schools, especially in high schools and once the warmer weather arrives near the end of the school year. The situations are not always easy to sort out and resolve, especially when there isn’t enough time for proactive dialogue and planning about a school or district’s dress code. I thought this article, Dress codes are a thorny subject for many schools, captured many of the contentious areas quite well. The “fingertip” rule is one that has always bothered me. For example, one of my daughters was always taller compared to her peers and has really long arms. If she followed the fingertip rule, she would have had to wear shorts a lot longer than many of her classmates. I hope that it is no longer the case that girls are lined up at the beginning of the school day to do the fingertip test. The article suggests that school uniforms are one solution, but does that really address the issues?
In Ontario, one of the required consultations to be done with school councils includes dress codes. Whether the policy is at board or school level – the school council is to be consulted (Reg. 612/00 (19); Reg, 298 (11: 19) ). I often think that many issues could be avoided if this consultation and dialogue occurred near the beginning of the school year. But how often does it? Given that parents, students, community and staff have representation on the school council and are expected to bring matters of consultation to the attention of their school community, this could be a great opportunity to create a good policy and be more proactive and inclusive to support development and buy in. At the secondary level, a student rep must be on a school council — so another good opportunity for that member to reach out to the students at the school. Here is a great approach that involved students in the process as captured in this video.
Also, this is a blog post that I often share when the topic of wearing hats in schools comes up. It captures some good considerations as well.
I recognize that guidelines or codes can be helpful, but I think they need to be flexible as well (and not create more grey areas). Perhaps they need to reflect each season at the time and other community-specific factors. If you have any examples of dialogue, consultations or steps that led to good outcomes for a school dress code, please share.