Wednesday, May 13, 2009

i sing of Olaf dressed in plaid*

If I were an oyster and the dress code of the high school and middle school here at Fort Knox were a teensy grain of sand, I would have the mother of all pearls by now. It might seem silly to get all worked up over school clothes, but it comes up repeatedly, each time I attempt to buy something new for one of the kids and hear about how all possibilities violate the 1,300-word current mandate.

What bothers me at least as much as the code is the way parental concerns on the topic have been minimized and brushed aside for the years that we have been here. I have been complaining to principals and to the district superintendent since 2005. When my friends and I get together to compare our experiences, we often wind up bemoaning the code, and I know that few students are fans. Yet to a one, the response from the administration has been tepid. Safety, they tell us. Discipline, they say. At the risk of sounding cynical, I'm convinced that deep inside each is thinking, It really doesn't matter because you'll be gone in a year or two, and I'll still be here.

Maybe that's why I've made the dress code my hill to die on. Next year will be my fourth "final" year here at Knox, and I'm tired of having the problem set aside to be dealt with at some future date. That's certainly what happened last year when I attempted as a member of the board of education to effect change--we were told it would be reviewed the following year. I am convinced, however, that if I had not stood up as a concerned parent at the new board's first meeting in September and made the new board members aware of this promise, they would not have heard about it through other channels.

The current board commissioned a committee of parents, teachers, and students to look at the issue, and today a survey was sent out to parents and students of the middle and high school. We are invited to vote for one of 2 options, which will then be discussed at a public forum next Tuesday night and enacted as policy by the board of education at Thursday's meeting.

Option 1 is a relative of our current policy distilled to some 350 words (click to make it bigger):

This policy fixes some of the problems with the current code, such as the current prohibition against Capri pants for girls (WTF?), but keeps some of the most annoying restrictions, such as the rejection of sweaters and sweatshirts with hoods. Perhaps when the current code was drafted many years ago, "hoodies" were a sure sign of gang activity, but today they're not and it's almost impossible to find non-hooded sweaters. In fact, I would love to see the superintendent take Annabelle shopping for a sweater without a hood. While he's at it, he is welcome to take Mike shopping for pants or shorts that don't have cargo pockets and that any self-respecting teenage boy who doesn't model himself on Alex P. Keaton would be caught dead in. The cargo pocket restriction, however, has survived in this new incarnation. (Cargo pockets aren't allowed because a student could use them to carry a weapon. Never mind that Annabelle carries a bassoon case--that her friends jokingly call "the RPG"--to and from school on a daily basis.)

Option 2 is a uniform, plain and simple:

That certainly would simplify the shopping and make it easier for the teachers to quickly to spot who is out of code, but it would also lead to all-out rebellion from the students. In fact, I can't help but think that it is the dire, worst-case scenario that is offered to make option 1 easier to swallow.

If we lived off post, the kids would go to North Hardin High, where
are the fashion rules (scroll down because their policy doesn't take up the better part of a page). If we lived in Stuttgart, Germany, they would attend a DoD school where this is the standard (again, scroll to get there). I want to know what is so bad about Fort Knox students that their clothing needs to be micro-managed to this extent. I'm tired of seeing my kids forced to dress like dweebs and being told that it's for their own safety.

Frankly, this feels like subjugation to me. What's the first thing we take away from prisoners and and bootcamp trainees? Their clothes. I've had enough of watching my kids treated like inmates.

I sincerely hope that next week marks the positive turning point in this issue. After 4 years of institutional torpidity, you'll have to pardon me if I sound skeptical.

*with apologies to e.e. cummings

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