Why You Should Be Strict On Dress Codes

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What does it matter?

Who cares if students wear their pants below their waist or show more skin than you’re comfortable with? As long as it doesn’t interfere with your teaching, what’s the big deal?

It’s a style, a fashion statement. It allows them to express themselves and their individuality. Crocs and sandals. Pajama bottoms and torn jeans. Backward hats and hoods. It’s just who they are.

It should be embraced, not discouraged.

Hmm, on the surface, it does make sense. But when viewed from whether it supports or detracts from learning and safety, failing to enforce a common sense dress code is a mistake.

Here’s why:

It transfers.

Small details of high expectations—like asking students to keep their work areas impeccable—transfer excellence to everything you do as a class.

Therefore, it’s a greater challenge to ask for supreme focus and hard work when their clothing, and by extension their attitude, says “I don’t care.”

It distracts.

Some of the current clothing trends among young people aren’t close to appropriate for school or their age. They clearly distract from the mission of learning.

Further, parents aren’t always aware of what their child is wearing. They assume the school wouldn’t allow dress that is more suitable in a night club.

It pressures.

Young people are under enough pressure due to social media and Tik-Tok and the mass confusion over who they’re supposed to be.

Removing dress-code guardrails creates anxiety in many students. It pressures them to conform and be part of the cool group. It allows for less freedom, not more.

It discourages.

Too casual of dress creates a too casual attitude. It encourages indifference and a statement that they’re not a “school boy” or “school girl.”

They’re above that. Too cool for that. Too nonchalant to show enthusiasm for learning, to do their homework, to study for the test.

It neglects.

Dress is a costume. For young people it’s a way of trying on personalities. This is normal. And schools should allow for individuality.

But part of preparing students for the future is teaching them that in the working world there are standards that must be met. School should reflect this reality.

It separates.

When you allow students to wear whatever they wish (within reason), it encourages separation between the haves and the have-nots, the cool and the not-so-cool.

It interferes with the high purpose of learning with and from and cooperating with people from different backgrounds, moral convictions, and socioeconomic conditions.

It disrespects.

Allowing students to push the envelope on dress encourages them to push the envelope on behavior, especially in the areas of respect and motivation.

In fact, permissiveness in any one area of classroom management leads to deterioration in the rest. High standards must be across the board.

It Matters

Your pursuit of excellence is contingent upon your demand of every detail. It’s not the big things. It’s the little things that communicate your expectations.

That raise the standards.

Room environment. Cleanliness. Precise policies and procedures. Neatness. Organization. Order. Respect. Dignity. Purpose. Responsibility.

They are the foundation upon which you build an effective classroom, school, and community.

So what should a school dress code look like? Are Crocs okay? Should you allow yoga pants, ripped jeans, and over-the-shirt jewelry? I’ll reveal our SCM recommendations and guidelines in a future article.

In the meantime, the core question for every teacher and school is this:

Does the way your students dress in any way detract from learning and preparing them for the future and the seriousness of purpose it requires?

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