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Thoughts on a dress code

January 23, 1997

Earlier this week, a group of Williamsport High School students promised that they would protest their school's dress code this afternoon at the Washington County Board of Education's central office. No one should be surprised or alarmed by this; protest rallies are as American as apple pie, and high school is traditionally the time when students test the limits of authority.

But while we support students' right to peacefully protest school policies on their own time, we ask them to consider another point of view - that Principal James Hardin just might be correct in his insistence on a fairly strict dress code.

We say that because, in one meeting after another, we've heard local business leaders say that young people who come to their firms seeking work don't arrive with the proper attitude or attire. Learning that there are certain standards that must be followed in the workplace is part of what Hardin is trying to get across.

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Does this infringe upon on students' ability to express themselves? You bet, but in today's working world, what's valued most in an employee is not the style on one's clothes or the color of anyone's hair, but the ability to work together.

There is a place for self-expression in the workplace, but it involves real achievements like inventing new and better ways of accomplishing the job at hand. In contrast, putting on a pair of ragged jeans or dying one's hair purple are hardly worth celebrating, since all either one requires is a trip to the thrift shop or the drug store.

Finally, we know that some of the opposition to the dress code comes from students' healthy desire not to get lost in the crowd, or to be identified with other groups whose views or outlook on life they oppose. To that we say this: In our jobs, we meet some of the most creative and unusual people in the region. What makes them stand out is their accomplishments and the quality of their thoughts, not their clothes.

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