In North Carolina, they're hard-core about their public school dress code. When 12-year-old Danielle O'Neal was seen wearing her shirt untucked, she was sent to in-school suspension where she was made to copy pages of the school's dress code.
Her parents are outraged, and they're threatening to sue, saying that it was an overzealous overreaction by the school to a minor infraction. They believe their daughter's education was threatened because she had to miss class during the suspension, and they're fighting to make the dress code policy "right and fair for these kids."
My first reaction was a huge eye roll that with all of the problems in our schools they chose this to focus on something like a wayward shirttail; and, like many others, I wanted to offer a big cheer for the parents for going to bat for their daughter like this. But the more I think about it, the more I think she deserved what she got.
I agree that requiring students to tuck in their shirts and wear belts is ridiculous. All shirts don't look right tucked in (think tunics), and it's just not always a flattering look on everyone. If it's a uniform that's one thing, but just insisting any and every old shirt be tucked in is a dumb rule as far as I'm concerned. But it is a rule.
The school says the dress code has improved student success rates. Superintendent Wanda Dawson told WNCT "a school dress code is a positive and cost effective way to create a more unified, positive, and safe school climate focused more strongly on the learning process."
Agree or disagree, but the bottom line is -- it is a rule, and the students knew about it. There had even been a recent school-wide announcement that no more warnings would be given for dress code violations. So, minor or not (her shirt was said to be hanging five or six inches below her sweater), she was breaking the rules
Just like it was a rule when I was in school that we had to wear socks. No matter how many fashion magazines I displayed to show them how much better things looked without socks, I still had to wear them or go to detention. And I did go to detention sometimes.
So what did my parents do? They told me to wear my socks or sit in detention. Since I didn't really like detention, I sucked it up and wore socks. End of story. Yes, some rules are meant to be broken, but you have to be willing to pay the price for doing the breaking; and it's good preparation for "real life" when you may have to wear a uniform you don't like, or follow a rule of your boss with which you don't agree. You don't have to ... but then you may not have a job. Just like Danielle doesn't have to tuck in her shirt ... but then she won't get to attend class. As hard as it may be, life is about choices and the consequences of those choices.
I'm all for kids and parents fighting to change their school dress codes, but not for them to be up in arms about it when they violate rules already on the book. And incidentally, 9 on your side reports this wasn't the first time Danielle had violated the dress code either.
So while it's easy to make a cause of out of kids like this, and to blast overzealous school rules, it's important to remember they are rules. Protest them if you will (and there are plenty that should be protested!), but if you want to teach your kids that breaking the rules is okay, then you better prepare them for living with the consequences too.
Do you think this girl should have been suspended for an untucked shirt?
Image via 9 on Your Side