Wednesday, January 25, 2006

I love stories like this XXXVII

Dress codes in school news yet again:
HASBROUCK HEIGHTS, N.J. (AP) - A male high school student can wear a skirt to school after the American Civil Liberties Union reached an agreement with school officials.

The ACLU announced the deal Tuesday. It will allow a Hasbrouck Heights School senior to wear a skirt to protest the school's no-shorts policy.

The district's dress code bans shorts between Oct. 1 and April 15, but allows skirts, a policy 17-year-old Michael Coviello believes is discriminatory.

"I'm happy to be able to wear skirts again to bring attention to the fact that the ban on shorts doesn't make sense," Coviello said in a statement.

A few years ago, before my wife and I decided to home school our kids, I attended a series of Neenah Joint School District school board meetings, nine of them, if I remember correctly. One of them featured a high school girl who had been disciplined for wearing a head scarf. The school rule, ostensibly, protects against weapons being stashed in head scarves. The girl, Barbara Polcin, stood up during the public commentary period and talked about her experience and about her hope that Neenah High School would change it's dress code to allow head scarves. The school board, naturally, passed the buck to the principal of Neenah High School.

This is what I wrote in a letter to the editor:
To: The Editor, The Scribe

Your article about Barbara Polcin's appearance before the school board gave an unfortunate impression of Ms. Polcin's mother. You quoted "Polcin's mother of Polcin" as saying, "She stands up for what she believes is right," followed immediately by, "I hope it's a phase she'll eventually grow out of." I cannot believe that Barbara Polcin's mother would wish that her daughter stop standing up for what she belives is right; but that's the impression given in your article.

I attended the school board meeting at which Barbara Polcin spoke with such energy and eloquence about her experiences with the Neenah High School dress code. If I were Ms. Polcin I would wear a bandana to school every day. And every day when I arrived at school I would march directly to the office, remove the bandana, and leave it in their keeping. After school I would retrieve it and put it back on. Perhaps I would go so far as to wear a new bandana every day. Friends could help the cause by wearing bandanas to school, too. Nothing would make a more tangible statement that the school's dress code regarding headwear is picayune, petty, pea-brained, and pettifogging than a huge mound of bandanas piled on the main office desk every morning. To add piquancy to the demonstration the bandanas could be doused with musky perfume to represent the cloying sweetness of the school's concern for student safety.

Gandhi would have called it "civil disobedience."


Steven W. Erbach

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