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School rules dress kids down

August 21, 2000

School rules dress kids down



It's back-to-school time, and that means it's time to get dressed. In accordance with the authorities, that is.

I bring this up because my Uncle Bob was kind enough to forward me an article from The Morgan Messenger outlining the dress code this year at Berkeley Springs (W.Va.) High School. Since this is my old high school, I am subsequently permitted, by statute, to publicly examine it in great detail.

Of course, when I was in school, we didn't have a dress code, because to have one would have deprived teachers of the one good laugh they could count on every new school year. Teachers are fine people, and one of their finest accomplishments was to be able to seriously discuss protons and verb conjugations with a straight face while staring at a room full of striped bellbottom trousers.

But apparently things have become so extreme that a dress code is called for. And the first item on the dress code agenda for this West Virginia high school? You guessed it.

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"1. Shoes must be worn at all times."

My uncle highlighted that one.

Reminds me of the anecdote about the sign in the restaurant that said "Shoes are required to eat in this cafe" and someone scribbled in underneath "Socks can eat wherever they want."

So students are required to wear shoes - doesn't say anything about pants. I would suspect that might be next, but no:

"2. Head coverings (hats, bandanas, headbands, hoods, etc.) are not to be worn inside the buildings."

Hold the phone. Hoods? Was this a problem? Yikes. Doesn't say anything about helmets, though. If I were in school, I might use this loophole to push the envelope.

"3. Sunglasses are not to be worn inside the building."

So much for Ray Charles.

I don't like this one, because the implicit message, if you can't wear shades, is that you have to keep your eyes open in class and that starts you down a slippery slope to the point where you are actually expected to stay awake during algebra.

"5. Clothing that exposes the midriff is not permitted."

Technically, clothing doesn't expose anything; lack of clothing does.

Besides, I think I would be more worried about clothing that exposed the topdriff or the bottomdriff, but it's their school.

"6. Shorts, skirts, dresses may be worn if they are the same length as the fingertips when shoulders, arms and fingers are in the normal, relaxed hanging position by the sides of the body."

I love this one more than I can say. Obviously the lawyers got in on this one. I can just see the hall monitor slamming a girl up against the lockers saying "All right, missy, I want to see those fingertips, shoulders, arms and fingers in the normal, relaxed hanging position. Ah ha! just as I thought."

For the boys' sake, I hope there are some girls in school this semester with really short arms.

"7. Shorts and pants will be worn up around the waist (top of hipbones) at all times."

God bless Berkeley Springs High School. Call me an old fogey if you must, but that pants around the thigh with the underwear sticking out never did it for me. Of course, that look went out of style everywhere in America except the Tri-State area about a year ago, but we're always a little late on the trends.

No. 9 basically outlaws clothing that promotes "drugs, alcohol, tobacco, profanity or sexual connotations." Nice to know that the two things that are absolutely, positively not allowed in public schools are that "Just Bud Me" T-shirt and the Ten Commandments.

Finally, there is a prohibition of "hazardous" clothing, including chains (Jacob Marley, you get right back home and change out of those chains) and, I am not making this up, dog collars.

But only, I assume, if the collar is worn below the ears when they are in that normal relaxed hanging position.

Tim Rowland is a Herald-Mail columnist.

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