Friday, September 11, 2015

An Open Letter to Moms Who Write Open Letters About Their Daughters' Unhappiness with School Dress Codes

I've seen you.

I've seen the fight you're fighting.

I've seen you post a photo of your daughter, looking for validation that the dress code is ridiculous and your daughter should be able to wear what she's wearing.

I've seen you shout that the school is sexualizing your daughter.

Stop it.

I'm begging you. Please oh please with sugar on top stop it.

Since schools have been requiring dress codes, girls have fought them.

In little ways and big ways, teen girls have been pushing that envelope, trying to get away with wearing something outside of the dress code.

Shoot, even in the Catholic school I attended girls were doing this, rolling their uniform skirts up to get them an inch shorter than allowed.

It used to be that parents and kids knew the dress code, and when their daughters came downstairs with something outside of the dress code, parents would send their daughters back to their rooms to change.

Girls would throw fits and complain that what they were wearing was FINE and adults were just out of touch and being mean.

Parents would ignore those daughters and the daughters would change.

(And a few really bold daughters would sneak different clothes in their bags and change later.)

Not so anymore.

Now, many parents will see their daughters dressing outside of the dress code and say, "You know you'll get in trouble if you wear that," then let their daughters walk out the door without changing. This means teachers and administrators must waste time that should be used productively (aka teaching) to enforce a rule the parents could and should have done at home.

And some parents like yourself will actually listen to your daughters complain about the dress code and take their side. And encourage them to defy the school personnel. Encourage them to take a stand and fight the "oppressive" rules. And shout from the rooftops that the school is sexualizing your daughters.

It's madness.

Utter madness.

Basically, it boils down to "my daughter wants to dress like this, I think she's dressed fine, so she should be able to wear it".

Instead, how about you take just a few seconds to look at this from the school's perspective?

Whether you want to admit it or not, clothing can be a huge distraction, including but not limited to boys being distracted by girls wearing little to no clothing. It distracts me, for Pete's sake!

Perhaps you consider the fact that school administrators aren't out to shame anyone, but are simply trying to get rid of as many distractions as possible so teachers can do their jobs?

Schools aren't causing the problem. You are.

They wouldn't have to enforce the dress code (what you see as shaming you daughter) if you stood up and did it before your daughter left the house.

Even if you don't agree with the dress code, you should still be enforcing it.

Teenagers are going to question authority. Questioning and pushing boundaries is almost a job for them. It's part of the whole brain development/character building/maturing/figuring out the world thing they have to do.

Questioning is not wrong. It's actually good for all of us to question just about everything we read or hear or see.

However, choosing to stand up and fight for something simply because "I want to" is wrong.


How, in any way, shape, or form, is making your daughters wear shirts with sleeves hurting them??

I'll answer that. It isn't!

But allowing her to defy the school administration and continue to dress out of dress code is hurting not just her, but all the kids who are losing out on instruction time so teachers and administrators can deal with your daughters.

Dress codes are a part of life. Tank tops and leggings aren't allowed in business offices. Open-toed shoes aren't allowed on construction sites. Adults need to dress in the clothing appropriate for what they are doing. Same goes for kids in school.

Schools have to have a dress code. A line has to be drawn somewhere as to what is appropriate and what is not. Just because you don't agree with where that line is drawn doesn't mean it's wrong. You just need to acknowledge the line and respect their authority to draw that line.

You don't work in that school. You don't have any idea what the teachers are having to deal with in that school. They are the authority in that environment. You are simply the parent of a child unhappy with the authority's rules.

How about instead of fighting the school administration, you find a way to help them? How about instead of posting your daughters' outfits online, you send in some coffee and thank you notes to the teachers who are doing their very best to educate your children? How about you show them a little respect and teach your daughters that following a dress code is part of being a kind, responsible person in a world that doesn't revolve around her wants?

As a teacher and a parent, I'd really appreciate your cooperation in this matter.

Have a lovely day!

PS I know this is way more blunt and direct than I normally write. I debated changing it to be a little less harsh. In the end, I wrote it the way I'd actually talk if I knew someone in real life who caused an uproar over the dress code.

PPS I know that most, if not all, of you would actually agree with me, so writing this isn't really getting to the people who I'd like to talk to. It's really just serving the purpose of me getting it off my chest.

And for real. Have a lovely day!


  1. Hey, that's OK! Get it off your chest! And I do agree with an even broader concept of this. Parents should demonstrate to their children cooperation with school rules. If there's a real and legitimate concern, it can be brought up one on one with a teacher or administrator, but social media is not the place for it. This kind of behavior pushes my buttons no end.

    1. I agree with you completely! I just narrowed it down to clothing because I'd seen one too many posts about it.

  2. I was totally *that* mom who was the clothes, hair, teeth, homework, lunch nazi! My daughter tried to get out of the house with those short tops on, she'd come slinkin' down the hallway all hunched over, I'd tell her to stand up, she'd straighten a little bit, then I told her to raise her hand like she was asking a question in clas.. Ding, ding, ding! Up came that shirt and back to her room she went to change. I always talked with my kids teachers before school started, I would assure them that I was sending my children well behaved and well prepared so that they could do their job, which is to teach, not parent every kid in the class, at least not my kid. I made myself available to my kids teachers so that we could work together and show a united front, so that my kids knew that I support their teachers and their teachers supported me and they wouldn't be getting away with a bunch of nonsense. My daughter is a teacher now and some of the things she tells me are just wretched.. God Bless all teachers and parents.. It truly is, us against the world when it comes to our kids..

    1. Sounds like you were a parent I'd love to work with! :)

  3. Well, let's see if we can share this a bit, so it does get seen by those who might need to read it! :-)

  4. I have mixed feelings. I do make sure my daughter is following the school's dress code, and I have the UTMOST respect for the educators in her school. I agree that it's important to teach kids those lessons. You are absolutely right - dress codes are a part of life and it's never too early to learn that. What I don't agree with is that dress codes are imposed only on girls. In that respect I do think schools are sexualizing little girls. They aren't saying "business casual is our code", they are saying GIRLS ONLY DO NOT SHOW YOUR BODY because it's going to distract our poor little boys. I think an even better lesson to teach would be teaching boys to have equal respect for girls, no matter what they are or are not wearing. PS I was the one who snuck the clothes out and changed at school.

    1. It's not like boys are allowed to go to school shirt-;ess. I think in most schools the dress code applies to everyone, it's just more of an issue with girls, because a lot more female clothing that breaks dress code is sold.....boys don't wear halter tops or short shorts, yk. My husband used to be teacher and back when the whole too baggy pants phase was in style I believe he DID have to enforce dress code on boys that would have their pants falling down. When I went to school, I know our school had some sort of rule about no offensive or drug-promoting graphics or slogans and occasionally a boy or girl would get in trouble for breaking dress code with an offensive t-shirt or something like that.

    2. I would not have guessed you were the rebel changing clothes! :)
      As Amelia said, it isn't a matter of boys not being told what they can or cannot wear. There are dress codes for them, too. Boys aren't going around trying to get away with wearing shorts halfway up their rear ends.
      As for boys being distracted, boys are going to be distracted by girls no matter what they are wearing. They should show respect no matter what girls wear. But shouldn't girls be taught to respect themselves and each other by keeping some of their body as private?

    3. I'm back. Had to get a kid to an activity.
      Back to the boys being distracted...Girls are distracted by boys, too, just as much, if not more than boys are distracted by girls. My question is, why do girls want to dress the way they do? Why do girls want to wear the short shorts and belly shirts? By and large, it's because the girls want to catch the eyes of the boys. Yet, when the boys do look, they get slammed for not being respectful. Some boys are jerks and will act on their hormones and treat the girls badly. Most boys won't. But the girls are still attracting the attention, on purpose, which does not in any way help the teachers teach.

  5. Excellent thoughts. All teenagers push the envelope. I'm sharing this with my friends who teach.

  6. This would be easy for me. If you don't comply then a one day suspension, then two on the second offense and at some point if compliance isn't achieved thr person would be expelled from the school forever. Put the monkey on the parents back.

    Have a fabulous day. ☺

    1. If only it was so easy these days...They do call the parents in to school to bring appropriate clothing. That's what set off the last mom I saw who was mad. She was ticked off that the school made her leave work because her daughter wasn't following dress code. Instead of, you know, being upset with the girl who actually broke the rules.

  7. unfortunately we live in a society that needs to label everything... i am guilty of it as well.. i tell my kids when they pick out an outfit at home or at the store if its trashy or classy... the other day Amelia wanted to add a tank top to her outfit .. N O , my dear ... later on she showed me a different top and I explained... that she shouldn't wear tank tops to school and her choice of clothing was very close to trashy, she innocently said Oh I didn't know that... I guess because she sees her friends wear similar outfits she didn't make the connections; look my kids are now in middle school with that comes more freedom... middle school itself is prepping our kids for high school... changing classes, hanging by the lockers they see this stuff on TV..ya know?

    Christine I am all over the place with this... because although we are initially commenting about dress code they is so much underlying how are kids dress. James sees a few girls in the 8th grade dressing of them went to detention for it and was given a school sweatshirt to wear not only did it cause a distraction but the entire grade gossips about her... and to balance it out a bit my son also tells us that these girls have boyfriends and also tells us how these boys are jerks and treat their girlfriends like dirt...really its starting in Middle School.

    so yes if we are only pointing our fingers atgirls well we should also shed light on how boys are acting and lets access that situation too. Clothing makes us it gives us an outside skin to tell everyone this is who I am with that comes ego, confidence, a personalty and maybe even, not sure how to word it but a lifestyle...preppy geeky, hippy, punker, grunge, rocker, jock, sexy or prude... SEE LABELS

    so now I end with going back to freedom... its not a freedom I give my kids by choice but a freedom that is instilled when they get to middle school... a freedom that they test constantly... a freedom that allows them to make choices...and I hope we have made a great impact to influence them to make the right choices...the next freedom is independence and they push the envelope on this one but I let go the reins a bit and let them go but before I do they both are armored appropriately because although the dress code at school is there to avoid distractions a dress code should be implemented when they are exercising a bit of independence because as parents it is our job to protect our children. this is ultimate reason why I have a dress code for both my creeps me out that a strange person can be driving down my block and check out a little girl, and/or an almost young man...

    thanks for the post --- truly thought-provoking!


    1. Thank you for taking the time to leave such a thoughtful comment!
      I have never understood the argument about letting kids dress a certain way to express themselves. Millions of kids wear uniforms to school, thus getting rid of sososososo many problems, yet we all still know who the jocks, hippies, nerds, etc. are. Don't we want to help our kids be confident with themselves no matter what they are wearing?

  8. I absolutely agree.. Especially, instead of causing more work for the teachers and administrators, to send them coffee and a thank-you note.. Quite honestly, my parents have sent me back up to my room to change into something appropriate, and it hasn't hurt me. I am sending up the girls to tell them to change if they wear something ridiculous (like Lily's famous all neon-pink outfit, shirt, skirt, and leggings). I call it teaching them how to dress well, not oppressing their individuality. As you mention, we'll be subject to dress codes for most of our lives, better teach the kiddos early!

    1. It makes me a bit bonkers when people claim their personality is being oppressed when they can't wear what they want. If your clothing is the only way you can express yourself, there is a big problem.

  9. AMEN! I think the message "boys can't control themselves" has overridden the other message of "this is a public space, you need to present yourself appropriately." It has nothing to do with their gender or self-expression, but if you want to be taken seriously in a PUBLIC forum, cleavage and booty shorts are UNACCEPTABLE. I remember colleagues fighting this battle over 15 years ago. So awkward for male staff members, but just as bad for us ladies on staff. Just. Dress. Decent. Like you would for any other place. Save the MTV PARTY ROCKS for the beach, thankssomuch.

    1. I knew you'd be with me. :)

      Good point about the awkwardness for teachers, too!


Thank you for taking the time to tell me what you're thinking!