The school dress ‘debate’

Is the school dress ‘debate’ nonsense – just have a range of options, and let students choose? From The Conversation.

January 11, 2017

https://theconversation.com/school-dress-debate-is-a-nonsense-just-have-a-range-of-options-and-let-students-choose-71069

Lauren Rosewarne

For Australians growing up on a diet of American film and TV, seeing their parade of chic and shocking school outfits can only ever bristle. Here, uniform is king; over yonder it’s been a rarity since the 1960s.

In recent days a debate has been reignited about girls being “forced” to wear skirts and dresses to school. A debate that feels less like a gender firestorm and more like a disregard for history and widespread school policy.

2017 marks my 20th year out of high school; I finished with that whole shindig back in 1997. Twenty years ago, while my public school offered a delightfully fetching brown kilt or fawn shirt dress, we ladies could also don the charming green pants.

The idea that girls are being forced into chub-rub garments that they can’t easily run in seems to ignore the developments that have transpired in the great majority of schools over a great number of years. Options exist. Pick the slacks, pick the shorts. Alternate.

In researching this article I’ve spoken to friends who are teachers, school counsellors. Parents. In the private sector, in the public. No dress distress that I could locate. At all. I don’t doubt there are exceptions. To suggest, however, that there’s a widespread catastrophe here is folly.

I’m not, therefore, devoting 800 words to selling a case on why school dresses are or aren’t sexist. We’re in an education system where they aren’t commonly compulsory, so there’d be no point. This doesn’t, however, make them uninteresting. Particularly in our current social climate.

As a high schooler I vacillated between believing that having to wear the itchy green school jumper was malarkey, to actually enjoying not having to think about outfits. Sure, I likely harboured vague notions of wanting to “express” the blackness of my soul through apparel I’d self-selected, but even then I knew that having to do so daily would have soon worn thin.

Schools like uniforms for branding purposes. For social cohesion. For classroom control. In a world of teenagers with beards and boobs, they also likely help distinguish teachers from the underlings.

Parents equally favour the fixed costs, the dodged drama about fitting in, the avoided arguments.

In 2017 the uniform story has become complicated, but not because of the mystical properties of any specific garment in a school’s ensemble. Rather, we’re at the part in our social journey where the individual is king. Where freedom of expression consumes more oxygen than all those economic and social factors that once justified the uniform.

I’m not going to write an identity politics essay. It’s January and I’m saving my energies for the start of the academic year when I’ll have to have the debate weekly with my Gender Studies students. Instead, I’ll focus on policy. On how schools can best handle this issue.

Just as Australians don’t really want to steal any of the prom king/homecoming queen/school shooting hideousness from the US education system, my guess is that there’s little impetus here to abandon uniforms. With the endless parade of stories about leggings bans and spaghetti strap scandals, I dare say most Australian schools aren’t the least bit interested in that whole can o’ worms.

So the question that remains is whether uniforms can continue to serve their purpose(s) in a world in where the concept of a “male uniform” and a “female uniform” is complicated, if not even passé, and in a culture that is – rightly – trying to meet the needs of students who don’t always identify as either.

Students not identifying as male, as female, shouldn’t be forced into apparel based on their name or their genitals or their haircut or any of the other markers we used to control gender. Doing so is not only oppressive but will create the capacity for litigation. Something schools most certainly want to avoid.

So the solution – the path of least change, least legal quagmire – is so simple it seems extraordinary that the conversation is still being had. Just have a range of sanctioned options.

Approve the dresses and the blazers and the jumper and the slacks. List the items that constitute the school’s uniform and allow the students to pick. It needn’t be more complicated than this. Get rid of the “girls” list, abandon the “boys” list, and just have a list of approved apparel.

If the primary mission of schools is education, if the primary function of uniforms is cohesion, schools need to enable students – all students – to feel included so that they can concentrate on the learning. The rest is politics and wasted breath.

Wantirna College

Girls at Wantirna College are not permitted to wear t-bar school shoes. They wear black shoes and white ankle socks with their summer dress, and navy tights or white socks with their winter skirt.

2018

http://www.wantirnacollege.vic.edu.au/parents/uniform-shop/uniform-list

Girl’s Summer Uniform: Terms 1 & 4

Dress:
White, navy and maroon College dress (mid knee length) with College emblem.

Jumper:
Year 7-10 Navy woollen jumper with College emblem.
Year 11-12 Maroon woollen jumper with College emblem

Shirt:
White polo shirt with striped collar and College emblem OR White tailored shirt with long or short sleeves (tucked in at all times)

Skirt:
White, navy and maroon College skirt to be worn with white polo or White tailored short sleeve shirt

Shorts:
Navy tailored shorts with logo (to be worn with the polo shirt or White tailored short sleeve shirt.)

Pants:
Navy tailored pants. (Note these are specific pants tailored to the school expectations, Face Off or other brands of tight fitted pants are not acceptable)

Socks:
Plain white socks (between the ankle and the knees) No anklets.

Girls Winter Uniform – Terms 2 & 3

Shirt:
White polo shirt with striped collar and College emblem OR White tailored shirt with long or short sleeves (tucked in at all times)

Skirt:
Navy, maroon and blue College woollen skirt

Pants:
Navy tailored pants. (Note these are specific pants tailored to the school expectations, Face Off or other brands of tight fitted pants are not acceptable)

Jumper:
Years 7-10 Navy woollen jumper with College emblem
Years 11-12 Maroon woollen jumper with College emblem

Jacket:
Navy, white and maroon bomber jacket (all year levels) or College Blazer (Later Years)

Socks:
Plain white socks (between the ankle and the knees) Black/navy socks for navy trousers only

Tights:
Flesh coloured panty hose or navy tights – not black and not worn with sock over the top

Tie:
Worn with white tailored shirt

Shoes:
Black leather lace up shoes (low heel).
T-bar shoes and canvas lace ups are not permitted

Things You’ll Only Get If You Grew Up In Geelong

23 Things You’ll Only Get If You Grew Up In Geelong – I bet you never won a game against South Barwon either. By Courtney Gould from Buzzfeed Australia.

https://www.buzzfeed.com/courtneygould/put-your-hands-up-for-geetroit


You were always confused as to why the schools in Geelong had long-ass kilts.

When all Melbourne girls had short skirts.

Sent home on first day of new uniform

Victoria University Secondary College was founded in 2010 by the amalgamation of two local secondary schools. A new uniform was created with a three year changeover period. In 2013 a number of students were sent home for wearing the uniforms from their former schools.

February 1, 2013

http://www.heraldsun.com.au/leader/west/st-albans-school-sends-60-students-home-for-wearing-wrong-uniform/news-story/24486df797c982efe3f633a1c0397cae

A senior student has hit back at readers who say a school was right to send students home for wearing the wrong uniform on the first day of school.

Up to 60 year 11 and 12 Victoria University Secondary College students were sent home on Wednesday for failing to wear the new school uniform.

Clair Anderson wrote to Leader Newspapers to defend herself after readers blamed the students for the row.

“As a year 12 student that attends the school, you would think they would let it slide,” she wrote.

“It is my last year and I do take my education very seriously. For them to send me home after being at school for an hour is affecting my education.”

She said her family would struggle to pay for a new uniform for just one year’s use.

“My mother is a single parent who has just had breast cancer and cannot work due to this,” she wrote.

“How is she is supposed to financially cover this?”

Principal Genevieve Simson said parents and students were given ample warning that old school uniforms would be phased out, and the new one required from the start of this year.

Many readers defended the school’s decision.

Tanya Fernando of Balwyn said students had ample warning and could not get away with ignoring the rules.

“My daughter’s school is the same. If she gets a detention for not wearing her blazer, her fault!”

School ‘breached duty of care’

But some readers say the school breached its duty of care to the students and that uniform violations were not a good reason to throw teenagers out.

Mary of Clayton said the school should have to pay for new uniforms for senior students, who would only have one or two years out of it.

“As long as the students are wearing ‘a uniform’ (even from their old schools) it should not matter,” she wrote on Leadernews.com.au.

“I thought school was to learn not to worry about school uniforms.”

Sara of Hawthorn said an out-of-date uniform should be acceptable for the duration of a student’s education.

“To expect parents to fork out money for another new uniform is greedy, ridiculous and old fashioned,” she wrote.

“Schools are supposed to teach, not be the fashion police.”

‘Don’t bother coming back’

Delahey mother Joanne Grey’s two daughters, Amy in year 11 and Erin in year 12, were both sent home.

Amy was not wearing a blazer, while Erin was wearing the old school jumper and canvas shoes, not leather shoes.

“Amy was told to get the right uniform or don’t bother coming back,” she said.

“It’s a bit heavy handed, year 12 should be about getting an education.”

After three schools merged in 2010 to form the college, the new school council set up a uniform committee to choose a new uniform.

“There has been a two-year change-over period, now everybody has to be in full school uniform,” Mrs Simson said.

“Parents were sent home letters, and it was in the school newsletter.”

She would not confirm how many students were sent home, but parents put the number at between 50 and 60.

Education jeopardised

Another mother, Koula Theoharou from Kealba, said she arrived home to find her 16-year-old daughter on the couch.

“The school didn’t even ring or call, I should have at least got a phone call,” she said.

“She wore the exact same uniform on her last day last year without any complaints.

“The school said they sent out letters but I haven’t seen one.

“I think it’s ridiculous, they are jeopardising her education.”

But Mrs Simson stood by the new policy.

“It’s a school rule, and they’ve had two years warning,” she said.

February 12, 2013

http://www.heraldsun.com.au/leader/news/following-uniform-policy-in-st-albans/news-story/1ca9657b242bbf8ff5c9f609d3d24bbb

Victoria University Secondary College students conform to new uniform policy

CLASSES are returning to normal at a St Albans secondary school after students were sent home for being in the wrong uniform on the first day of school.
On Thursday, just four students arrived at Victoria University Secondary College in the wrong uniform.

A week earlier, about 60 Year 11 and 12 students were sent home for breaching the school uniform policy, sparking outrage among parents and students.

After three schools merged in 2010 to form the college, the new school council set up a committee to choose a new uniform.

Principal Genevieve Simson said parents and students were given ample warning old school uniforms would be phased out, and the new one would be required from the start of this year.

Last week, the school stopped sending students home, but instead barred them from classes and sent them to the gym to complete class work.

Education department spokeswoman Anna Malbon said no students had been isolated from their peers.

“The principal has informed the department that the school is committed to assisting students and their families to acquire the school’s uniform,” she said.

“While this process is under way, the four students are receiving their normal lessons together in a class and are with other students at lunch and recess as normal.”

The saga has left some parents questioning how it even happened.

One mother, who wished to stay anonymous, said she had spent close to $300 buying the new uniform for her son in Year 10.

“The majority of the parents feel there is no need to purchase the blazer because other items have been purchased with the school emblem on it,” she said.

“We are in a low socio-economic area and we, and more so our children, are being bullied by the school to purchase this ridiculous item when we have jumpers and other jackets.

“Everyone is at a loss as to how this could happen,” she said.

Schoolgirls cycling to school in skirts

Concerns about modesty means that skirts get in the way of many things that a schoolgirl might like to do. One of those activities is riding a bike.

February 15, 2017

http://www.couriermail.com.au/questnews/north/parent-calls-for-ferny-grove-state-high-school-to-relax-strict-dress-code-to-enable-students-to-cycle-to-school/news-story/784e511e3df7870cc76ba40064b9c334

More than 300 people have thrown their weight behind a call for Ferny Grove State High School to ease its strict dress code.

Petition organiser Kate Gadenne, the mother of two students at the school, said the code made it impractical for students, particularly girls, to ride to school.

The dress code bans students from wearing their sports uniform to and from school, and insists they don the formal uniform, which for girls includes a skirt.

Ms Gadenne, from Upper Kedron, said some students wore clothes suited to cycling and changed into their uniform at school.

She said her daughters had given up cycling because the load was too much and cycling in a skirt was too hard.

School principal Mark Breckenridge said the dress code was developed in consultation with the school community and agreed on by parents and students.

“Students who do not meet the standards outlined in the dress code are dealt with under the school’s responsible behaviour plan,” he said. “Parents are welcome to raise any concerns they have about uniform policies with me or the school’s P&C.”

The dress code

The Ferny Grove State High School formal uniform includes:

■ Brown lace-up hard leather standard school shoes and short mid-brown socks

■ Bottle green skirt worn below the knee and pepper­mint green blouse for girls

■ Tailored bottle green shorts or trousers with belt loops in school uniform fabric and peppermint green polyester cotton shirt for boys

Ballarat schoolgirls sent home for wearing short dresses

Schoolgirls wearing short skirts and the teachers who police them. A story as old as school uniforms!

March 2015

http://www.thecourier.com.au/story/2949189/ballarat-schoolgirls-sent-home-for-short-dresses/

Dozens of female students at Ballarat Secondary College were sent home on Monday from the Wendouree campus for their dresses being too short.

Parents say the school has lost sight of bigger issues, and argued they could not make the changes only a week after a letter was sent out to parents.

Year 10 students Miss B, Miss H and Miss G were among the girls sent home.

Miss B said she attended first period, when at recess she was told to get her belongings, was sent to the front office and told to go home.

“I wasn’t embarrassed, but I was angry. I’ve been here since year 7 and I’ve been a good student – yet I was sent home for something like this,” Miss B said.

“It shouldn’t be up to a male teacher to say that a student’s dress is too short”

Parent Mrs G said there needed to be stronger communication.

She said there was no way parents could adhere to the new rules overnight and that there needed to be a transition phase.

“It’s destroying our children’s education. They’re not letting them learn because of the length of their dresses,” Mrs G said.

“It shouldn’t be up to a male teacher to say that a student’s dress is too short.”

Mrs G’s daughter was told to unpick the hem on her dress a few weeks ago, only to be sent home on Monday with her dress still too short.

“It’s really tacky. I have to wear a dress unhemmed,” Emma said.

Mrs G said her daughter was sent home with another dress, which she could not afford to buy and her daughter did not want to wear because it had holes and buttons missing.

“A new dress is $79 from Lowes. We can’t all afford to buy new dresses every six months. I’m a single mother and I have three other children,” she said.

Ballarat Secondary College principal Rick Gervasoni, who started at the school last year, said he had asked that school uniform policy be enforced.

“These are rules we’ve had for a long time, well before I started, that covers all aspects of the uniform approved by school council.”

He said regulations stipulated that dresses be knee-length.

“Uniform gives a sense of identity and pride. It sets the tone for the day and gives a strong connection to the school.

“All schools in Ballarat have a uniform policy.”

Mr Gervasoni said a small number of students were sent home on Monday, after a period of communication with students and parents.

“Students have been spoken to over a period of time about what’s expected,”he said.

“We’re working with parents to make sure the policy is implemented, and supporting parents who couldn’t readily access more uniforms.”

He said all parents of students who were sent home were contacted and the school was working to resolve the issue.

“We don’t want students missing school,” he said.

Uniform policies are wide-spread across Ballarat, with most schools enforcing a knee-length rule for both summer dresses and winter skirts.

Bentleigh Secondary College boys in short school dresses

An annual tradition for year 12 students is dressing up for ‘Muck Up Day’. Some boys at Bentleigh Secondary College ran afoul of the school’s uniform regulations, by wearing summer dresses that were too short.

October 2017

http://www.heraldsun.com.au/news/special-features/news-in-education/bentleigh-secondary-college-boys-wearing-dresses-ordered-to-change-at-year-12-muckup-day/news-story/185e33b30248da832a7e93dfc4a82bc0

Bentleigh Secondary College boys wearing dresses ordered to change or go home at Year 12 muck-up day

Boys who wore dresses to their Year 12 muck-up day were pulled out of class and ordered to change or go home, students claim.

Yet, girls who dressed in the boys’ uniform at Bentleigh Secondary College were allowed to remain, they say.

The Herald Sun has been told up to 40 boys turned up to school in dresses for the Year 12s’ last day of classes this morning.

“In first period they collected all the boys and told them they either had to get changed or go home,” said one student, who asked not to be named.

“They could stay (at school) but they had to put shorts on underneath.”

But most of the boys did not have shorts, he said, and one boy in his class went home.

In a statement, the school said students were asked to wear shorts underneath after complaints over the length of their dresses.

However, girls who wear dresses at the school are not forced to wear shorts.

Bentleigh Secondary College principal Helene Hiotis said “not a single student has been disciplined or sent home for wearing dresses to school today”.

“A number of male students who wore dresses to school today as part of muck-up day activities were simply asked to tone down their outfits following complaints by other students,” she said.

But the teen said some students had been troubled by the message the school had sent in its ruling.

“A few kids at our school are LGBTIQ — we’re a Safe School, we’ve even got a poster of a guy wearing a dress encouraging people to wear what they’re comfortable in,” he said.

“There’s a few students disappointed in the school and a few upset about making the guys change.

“I think (the length of the dresses) as an excuse is quite poor, to be honest.”

Another student labelled the muck-up day uniform swap, where boys wear dresses and girls wear shorts, as “a year 12 tradition for their last day of classes”.

“This is an issue as Bentleigh is meant to be a progressive school and this whole ordeal have (sic) disrupted learning more than anything,” he said.

Ms Hiotis said the matter had “nothing to do with Safe Schools”.

“Bentleigh Secondary College prides itself on being a safe and inclusive environment for all its students,” she said.

Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commissioner Kristen Hilton said anyone who felt discriminated against because of their sex, gender identity or personal characteristics could contact the Commission.

“Schools must ensure that student dress codes protect students against discrimination and uphold human rights requirements,” she said.