WHAT EVER HAPPENED TO… the middle-school dress code?

Jacqueline Chao
Seventh graders Vanessa Escobar, Kenna LaFitte and Jordan Lindsay wear jeans and non-collared shirts.

In the “What Ever Happened to…” series, reporters will explain what happened to some of Country Day’s former traditions. Check back tomorrow for another installment. 

When senior Isabelle Leavy was a sixth grader, she hated how strict the dress code was and how inconsistently it was enforced.

“The only time I got a detention was when I wore a tank top with a cardigan buttoned the heck up,” Leavy said. “Lauren Larrabee (2015), who was two years older than me, wore the same thing with just a shrug, so I thought (it) was (fine).

“Some people (were) punished all the time, (while) some people never would (get in trouble) for the same infractions.”

Six years ago, students didn’t have the option of wearing logo wear as opposed to collared shirts, a rule that was very inconvenient for Leavy during back-to-school shopping season.

“Collared shirts for girls are way harder to find,” Leavy said. “I remember my mom and I spent a lot of time on the Abercrombie website finding shirts that were reasonably priced and not disgusting and ugly.”

Maybe she was born too early.

The current middle-school dress code now gives students a fair amount of freedom with obvious “no-nos,” as Edward Bolman, dean of student life,  likes to say.

In addition to collared shirts, students can wear blue jeans and logo shirts every day, something Leavy strongly approves.

Students can’t wear sweatpants or show their shoulders, and shoes have to be secure on the feet.

According to Bolman, about 13 years ago the dress code was a lot stricter under former head of middle school Quincey Grieve. Students had free-dress days only once a month.

The current, less-restrictive dress code is thanks to Bolman, who talked to current head of middle school Sandy Lyon about giving the students more freedom regarding their clothes.

The most recent change has been  allowing jeans, which Bolman said aren’t considered as casual as they once were, making them a suitable choice for school.

However, he said, since the dress code is a compromise, and compromises can’t make everyone happy, there will always be students who rebel against it.

And even if students don’t get in trouble for breaking dress code, that doesn’t mean the teachers don’t notice.

“Do I care because they’re not necessarily following the rules?” Bolman asked. “Yeah, sort of. But do I have bigger things on my plate like my lessons for the day? Yeah, I do.

“However, if you overtly and openly (are) like, ‘I’m gonna just (dress like) this every day, the way I want to,’ eventually you’re going to get caught.”

So if you walk past a seventh grader wearing a non logo-wear T-shirt on a Monday, it’s not that the teachers are oblivious, but that they have other things on their mind.

The punishments for students who do get caught, however, aren’t very severe, said Bolman. Typically they’ll get a lunch detention or have to clean up during the second half of their lunch period. But according to Bolman, usually students are good about switching into dress code-acceptable clothing once a teacher gives them a warning.

While it may seem like a uniform is one solution, there’s a simple reason that prevents Bolman from advocating for them.

“We’d be like every other local private school,” Bolman said. “We’re Country Day, we’re distinguished. Uniforms – in my personal opinion – they make everybody look like a drone. (The dress code) allows the children a little extra freedom to make some choices and explore and express their individuality rather than being cast into a mold.”

By Emma Boersma

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