Following the “uniform reboot” announcement at Principal’s Meeting on Friday, Feb. 4, many students expressed outrage at the administration’s “sudden” change in uniform policy. Head of School Andrea Shurley announced stricter enforcement of rules found in the Student Handbook including restrictions on boots, jackets and patterned tights along with new regulations on scarves and over-sized jewelry.
No one is arguing the uniform is perfect. Students have begun to look sloppy over the past few years. Changes are necessary to bring the uniform back up to par, and the administration is willing to make some tough calls. Students are aware that in deciding to attend CSH, they are agreeing to abide by school policy, which includes the uniform. The administration is more than generous in including students in an ongoing discussion generally left up to school authority. Shurley invited students to submit proposals regarding elements of the uniform they wish to change.
However, an open dialogue is a double-edged sword. The administration initially instituted “T-shirt Tuesday,” allowing CSH spirit T-shirts to be worn on Tuesdays only. After numerous complaints from students and parents, Shurley repealed this provision the following Monday. Although thoughtful to involve students in the process, changing policy too quickly can convince students that these new rules are only temporary.
This problem could have been avoided if students were consulted before the announcement. The week prior, the student body voted on three new uniform skirt options, and the administration decided to respect the majority’s vote to keep the old uniform skirt. If this process had been repeated with the new policy — T-shirt Tuesday especially — the administration could have better foreseen objections and points of contention.
One huge objection regarding skirts came from the Senior Class. As stated in the handbook, skirts are to be no more than four inches above the knee when seated. No student or teacher wants to see up a girl’s skirt while walking up the stairs, but the cut and fit of the skirt, if purchased and unaltered from Dennis Uniform, does not fall within this length range. The administration’s only suggestion to solving this issue was for students to let out the seam sewn-in by the company. This is not a viable option for upperclassmen who have been wearing the same skirt for the past few years, as the considerable fading of the skirt would noticeably contrast against the darker fabric and the seam would leave a permanent crease.
Introducing a new policy more than halfway through the school year was largely to blame for the overwhelming negative student perception of the plan. Announcing the changes to the uniform in the fall would have set the tone for the rest of the year. Seniors in particular, who act as leaders for the rest of the school, are less inclined to participate in an initiative that seems trivial in their remaining time — setting a negative example for underclassmen. It may be effective to enforce strict rules on freshman who are just out of middle school, but for seniors who are legal or almost legal adults, such measures may seem punitive.
While most of the concerns voiced by students and their parents are ideological, one of the largest issues is practical — enforcement. In order to conduct daily “uniform checks,” faculty will be forced to take already precious class time to inspect each student for infractions. Parents will be called for students who consistently ignore uniform policy — a “punishment” that is unlikely to create incentive to follow the rules. In reality, parents — many of whom work and have busy lives, will not really care if their daughter wears a scarf to school.
Many students are inclined to simply complain about the new uniform policy, however this is neither a mature nor productive response. The administration has proved it is willing to incorporate suggestions, as long as students cooperate with the rules by showing a “good faith effort” in the uniform. If students want the uniform policy to be revised, they must be willing to respect the rules that are currently in place. Forward thinking can make up for short-sightedness.