Rant & Rave

By Liane Kaneko

Tuesday, November 5, 1996

Dress codes don’t make the grade

DOES the way you dress affect the way you learn? Well, some educators think so. This year, Castle High School is enforcing its new dress code.

The dress code reads in part: "Wearing inappropriate clothing related to drugs, gangs, profanity, or that is indiscreet is not allowed. (Indiscreet means any clothing that reveals bare chests, bare midriffs, underwear and buttocks.)"

Many students reacted strongly to the code. It was unexpected and students felt that they were not given a chance to offer their opinions on the matter.

On Friday I received the Parent Bulletin that is mailed to students' homes once a month. It usually carries information about upcoming events and other school news. But what caught my eye was the Dress Code situation. It offered "solutions" on what to do with clothing already bought that now doesn't meet school standards. The school suggested a little "creativity," such as adding a piece of fabric or ruffle over exposed areas.

But the section that got most of my attention was the one titled, "Why Have a Dress Code?" It said, "There has been a lot of research on the issue of individuality vs. conformity in the dress of students on campus."

Educators said that this topic surfaced because of the increase in violence and decrease in number of high school graduates across the country.

A dress code, they say, will end 1) distractions that keep students from concentrating on lessons; 2) improve classroom behavior; and 3) remove some of the causes of school crime, violence and gang activity.

AFTER reading this, I wondered, "Does the way students dress really cause all these types of things to happen?"

There are some girls who will show a little cleavage. Once an administrator said something about boy's hormones and how we need to control them.

I will agree that there are some occasions in which guys get rowdy when they see a girl walk by, checking her out. But it's nothing that would cause such a distraction that class cannot go on. Guys can be like that, but it's not like they start to drool and stare helplessly, and say, "I can't work any more because of the way so-and-so is dressed."

And I don't understand the point about decreased violence, crime and gang activity as a result of a dress code. I know it's not appropriate to promote drug use and gangs. Those are criminal activities. But I don't see how wearing halter tops would lead to violence.

Dress codes go back to ancient times. My father said that when he was in school, he was put on detention because his shirt tails were untucked. My mom said that skirts could not rise more than two inches above the knee, and that no T-shirts and slippers were allowed. She said that in protest, students wore their swimsuits to school.

Dress codes do change. No one would think of banning a T-shirt today. And dress codes should be flexible to reflect new styles.

Returning to the present, a junior class senator took the initiative do do something about our current dress code. She made her feelings known at an SCBM (Student/Community-Based Management) meeting and established a bill to change the code.

This is how her dress code would read: "Wearing inappropriate clothing related to drugs, gangs, profanity or that is indiscreet is not allowed.

"Clothing such as crop tops, halter tops, spaghetti straps and other clothing materials which show your midriff will be allowed, with the exception of clothing which will expose one's bra or breast at any time."

There is much support for her rewritten code from other students, but more support is welcome. If students had been informed about the change in the dress code, they would have gladly participated.

Liane Kaneko is a sophomore at Castle High School.

Rant & Rave is a Tuesday Star-Bulletin feature allowing teens and young adults to serve up fresh perspective. Guys and girls speak up by fax at 523-8509; by answering machine at 525-8666; snail mail at P.O. Box 3080, Honolulu, HI 96802; or e-mail, features@starbulletin.com

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