By the (Hand)books
September 8, 2022
Filing through the doors on the second day of school, students entered the auditorium for a lecture regarding expectations and rule procedures. For the first time since the pandemic hit, this meeting was held in conjunction with student services to discuss the student handbook. As the lecture went on, the discussion seemed to remain the typical, run-of-the-mill policies on school rules. However, there lingered a feeling of disconnect between the students and the speakers—the rules themselves were clear, but an unequal emphasis on certain aspects, specifically dress code, left students feeling confused about the reasoning behind such regulations.
Though the handbook itself has not changed with the arrival of a new administration, there is a large difference in the execution, expectations and culture of the school, all with the idea of upholding the student handbook to establish a “professional learning environment.” While some rules have a clear connection to creating this environment, others, such as the outdated dress code and its enforcement, leaves a question unanswered in the eyes of students: how does the current dress code, with its unequal administration and explanation, contribute to establishing a safe and professional environment that betters student learning?
There is a clear divide between the execution of the rule and what is written in the handbook. Not only do some rules lack consistency (excessively baggy clothing is almost never dress-coded, despite explicitly stated in the handbook), but the explanation of these rules were not given. For example, revealing midriff was emphasized at the assembly, but it was not explained.
Students value proper communication; in the seats of the auditorium, what flickered through the minds of many students was the question of “why.” How do these rules contribute to the education of students, to the idea of the professional learning environment?
The problem is made worse by the generational disconnect between administrators and students. Clothes aren’t made the same, mainly because of fast fashion. According to The State of Fashion 2019, the average person today buys 60% more items of clothing than they did 15 years ago. But consumers keep that clothing for only half as long as they used to; fast fashion is made to be cheap, not durable. With fast fashion brands like Shein accounting for 40% of sales, it contributes to students going through more trends faster.
Though the student handbook should not have to constantly update to adjust to new fashion trends, clearly addressing new trends and if they violate the handbook and why can close the divide.
Understanding why the school values certain rules is just as important as following them. While students recognize that some rules are made in their best interest, that divide can only be bridged with clear communication. If loose terms like “conductive learning environment” and “professionalism” are thrown around without guidelines, it makes students feel as if they are being undermined in their importance to the school.
More constructive ways should be put in place to support a professional learning environment without stopping certain students from learning.