Saturday, May 19, 2012

And Joeseph K thanks you too

Kids should read Kafka, not live it

I am amazed at the response that the post about my daughter’s discipline for inappropriate dress has received. The story has been taken up by popular forums on Reddit and other blogs.  The post has gotten more hits than all my other posts have all year, and most of that in a little over 24 hours!  I feel like I should wear mirrored shades indoors.  I think I will drive to Starbucks and wear my shades and a wry smile while I order a quad espresso. 

I know most of the attention is due to how photogenic AYD is rather than my prose, but that will not stop me inflating the importance of my words. I did write the post after all.  She would have been content hiding her self-doubt and shame in silence. No matter how much an adolescent tries to marginalize the authority figures in their life (and I tried) their condescension cuts. Your comments and support have helped to salve those wounds. It would be better if you were not electronic strangers.  Perhaps we can all get together for a summer barbeque where laughter drowns too-loud music, and the night smells of tiki torches?

Seriously; we do have a responsibilities. I’ve personally got a whole bunch just for being AYDs Dad , but as citizens of a larger community we have responsibilities that are in play with this situation. And I’m not simply soapboxing.  Some of those responsibilities are detailed in the official dress code policy adopted by the Tooele school board. In it they present a single guiding principle for each school’s dress codes. They are to express: “standards that reflect community values and ideals.”. That means your values and ideals.

Some of you might think that the term “community” in the context of a public school refers specifically to the handful of damaged individuals who take a personal emotional interest in some particular item of school policy. These people (often parents) drive meetings into overtime arguing (often with themselves) about minutia so trivial they have escaped notice from the rest of the group. But a community is more than that.  A community is the group of people whom the graduates of the school will interact with.  Accountants might say that the community is that group of individuals who fund the school, but since the Utah school system receives federal money that means just about everyone; it means you.

There is a place for dress standards. I am not against dress codes in a public school.   Some kids dress in demonstrably harmful ways and should be confronted. However, a teenager that dresses in an overtly sexualized way can be acting out of some kind of damage, and maybe advertising their need for help. Sure, most of the time this may not require intense intervention, but how can a system ever know if it insists on criminalizing the individuals who are crying for help?

Of course the situation with AYD was not a cry for help. It was just a kid wearing reasonably nice clothes to school. Making that outfit criminal, and then putting it on display (which is what “waiting in the office for your parents” is) forces those kids who’s cries for help a dress-code is supposed to catch back into their cellars and attics.

AYD will be fine. In fact I’m sure she will be more than fine; much more.

I will do something with the comments I have received for the various postings of her story. I may even post the school district's phone number on a picture in the hopes of directing some feedback directly to them, but I think waiting till next week (which is the last week of school for AYD) would lessen the consequences of that move to an acceptable level. Please provide feedback if you have it to provide. It will not just disappear into the nether like so many things said in the internets.

I have two stories that will help put Tooele school district’s stance on student dress into context. I will put them up over the next couple of days.

6 comments:

Rai said...

I'm really glad you wrote the post about your daughter--and I do think your words were an important part of it, although her obviously-appropriate picture helped--because I see this issue becoming more and more prevalent. I recently graduated from high school, and the district implemented school uniforms a couple years ago. This is a public school, and the uniforms were supposedly to prevent kids from wearing 'gang colors' (which was not a problem in our district) and make them smarter, and teach them to dress for the 'real world'. I never got an answer when I asked the school board exactly what kind of 'real world' we were being prepared for...working at McDonalds out of high school? I'm in college now, and I can wear whatever I want.
This got a little rant-y, but I'm not over the injustice, ignorance, or refusal to listen to parents who actually did research and had valid points.
So, thank you for bringing this up. I hope your daughter feels better having an internet community behind her (I certainly am!) and you aren't too overwhelmed by the attention you're getting.

Rai said...

I'm really glad you wrote the post about your daughter--and I do think your words were an important part of it, although her obviously-appropriate picture helped--because I see this issue becoming more and more prevalent. I recently graduated from high school, and the district implemented school uniforms a couple years ago. This is a public school, and the uniforms were supposedly to prevent kids from wearing 'gang colors' (which was not a problem in our district) and make them smarter, and teach them to dress for the 'real world'. I never got an answer when I asked the school board exactly what kind of 'real world' we were being prepared for...working at McDonalds out of high school? I'm in college now, and I can wear whatever I want.
This got a little rant-y, but I'm not over the injustice, ignorance, or refusal to listen to parents who actually did research and had valid points.
So, thank you for bringing this up. I hope your daughter feels better having an internet community behind her (I certainly am!) and you aren't too overwhelmed by the attention you're getting.

FBJ said...

What is the school's dress code say about the length of her dress? She had to be in compliance based on that photo. The principal was a butthole with an agenda.

postmormon girl said...

Good luck resolving the issue --- and don't cave in to pressure. When I saw the article on Jezebel I assumed it would be some horrid example of teenage rebellion, not a teenage girl wearing a perfectly modest outfit. But Utah can be a harsh place, especially if you are outside the mainstream.

Anonymous said...

Teenagers who dress in overtly sexualized ways are automatically damaged? They can't just be comfortable with themselves and their bodies?

I was with you until that sludge.

Anonymous said...

Tell AYD that by the time she's my age, she'll forgotten all about it. trust me, we were trying really, really hard to figure out what we were given detention for, oh a good 40 years ago......