On Wednesday morning, as a dozen Urbana Middle School eighth-graders prepared to enter school, most wore baggy yellow T-shirts that read in marker: “I am more than just a distraction.”I was told about this by a colleague whose daughter is involved. Her complaint was that it is all but impossible to buy clothes that conform to the code, viz., she once tried to reject as too short a pair of shorts her daughter had picked out, but her daughter showed her that there were no longer shorts to be had anywhere in the Mall. She was also pissed because this same principal said that the girls only had to wear the yellow shirt "until their mothers bring them something more appropriate," a trick for a woman like her with a job in downtown DC.
They were among students in two Frederick County Public Schools who claim their respective schools’ dress codes unfairly target girls and promote a culture of shaming them.
School district administration said the dress codes, which individual principals have wide latitude to determine in their respective schools, are in place to ensure a safe, nurturing learning environment, free of distractions.
Urbana Middle welcomed a new principal this year, Peter Daddone from Montgomery County Public Schools. Girls at the school, interviewed on Wednesday, said Daddone has taken an authoritarian approach with enforcing the dress code, making them wear ill-fitting yellow T-shirts to cover up dress code violations.
Dress code infractions have been turned into a verb by students and parents — students are “dress-coded” when they violate the policy.
District spokesman Michael Doerrer said the yellow T-shirts are not a punishment, and merely a way for each student to return to class until a parent can bring an appropriate outfit to school.
“It’s not a scarlet letter,” Doerrer said.
Students at Urbana Middle, however, disagree. . . . Students started “rebelling” on Monday, in part because they felt humiliated by the yellow shirts, eighth-grader Abby Carioti said. That day, when students infringed on the dress code and were given the shirts, the entire cafeteria cheered when they walked back in.
“They’re telling us it’s our responsibility to not be distracting, when it should be their responsibility,” Carioti said of the administrators.
I love it that it was actually the school spokesman who made the analogy between the yellow shirts and the scarlet letter. Bit of a guilty conscience there, perhaps?