An 8-year-old girl from Sicklerville, New Jersey, was suspended last week for violating the dress code. What was the offense this time? Bared shoulders? A scandalous peep of ankle? Nope. Her shirt was the wrong shade of green.
It’s just the latest in insane tales from the dress code handbook: Elementary student Kylie attends Winslow Township School #4, a public school in New Jersey, where a recently implemented dress code has landed the little girl in hot water. The dress code allows for white, navy blue and dark green polo shirts, and Kylie found out the hard way that adherence to these guidelines is serious business when her kelly green shirt rose to the level of “distracting.”
According to Kylie’s mother, she was initially told by the principal that if Kylie showed up to school in the wrong color shirt again, she’d be facing a suspension. But the next day, when the mother brought Kylie and her twin, Karlie, to school — properly attired in navy blue jumpers — she was told to take Kylie home. The mother opted to pull both girls for the day.
Video: FOX 29
There are a number of things wrong with this picture. The first, of course, is that a one-day suspension for a shirt is way out of order, unless of course that shirt has a bomb threat or some kind of awful, hateful invective scrawled across it or is revealing to the point of obscenity. Obviously a polo shirt that is a slightly lighter color than ideal is hardly an offense worthy of suspension. It’s more like an offense worthy of grabbing a sweatshirt or a verbal warning or a simple phone call to the person who oversees the morning dress routine. Which brings us to the next issue.
Kids rarely have control over the shirts their parents purchase for them. In the back-to-school rush, it’s hard enough to find a three-brad folder in the precise color of blue that a teacher requests, let alone a specific shade of green polo shirt. It might be against the rules, but it’s Kylie’s mother who bought the shirt, even though Kylie was punished for wearing it.
Finally, there’s that same old dress code paradox that blows our minds every year: Dress code is implemented to cut down on “distractions” and facilitate learning; child commits arbitrary dress code infraction; child is humiliated, suspended or otherwise punished, thereby causing a bigger distraction than her spaghetti straps or light green polo shirt ever could have; and no learning occurs. Especially in this case, because it’s kind of hard to stay on task in the classroom when you’ve been asked to leave the building.
The dress code is in its second year in the school district, and Kylie wouldn’t be the first to get the boot for picking a shirt that didn’t adhere; a boy who attends the school also got suspended for wearing a shirt of a blue shade that was heretofore acceptable but suddenly not blue enough.
With any new policy, there are going to be some kinks that require ironing out, but this is ridiculous. In a recent newsletter, the school district’s superintendent had a message for parents:
“This fall marks the second year our students are wearing uniforms. We believe the program has achieved initial success; in this second year, the Board will strictly enforce the Uniform Policy, particularly at the High School and Middle School. We ask parents/guardians to continue your support of the Dress Code/Uniform Policy by sending your children to school properly dressed and prepared to learn.”
It goes on to say: “Student achievement always has, and will continue to be, our highest priority.”
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Enforcing these dress codes with an iron fist almost always ends up doing more harm than good. Who can forget the girl who was forced to wear a neon yellow “shame suit” with “dresscode violation” emblazoned on it last year? There’s no way that was less distracting than her original ensemble.
Likewise, suspending Kylie is like saying, “We’re worried that if you wear this shirt, no learning can happen. So we’re going to solve that problem by sending you home.”
It just doesn’t make any sense.