September 15, 2022
Hello Falcon Fams!
Today was picture day and it gave me reason to move the dress code topic from the bottom of my list to the top, at least briefly. I was recently able to discuss dress code with our entire faculty and I also received some feedback from our parent focus group. It would be difficult to summarize those conversations except to say that the enforcement of our dress code is an open and ongoing discussion. While we may never achieve unanimous agreement, we can at least journey towards a shared understanding of our dress code, its application, and the importance of both. I say it is a journey because I want it to be a discussion, not a statement with a closed door, and I certainly do not want it to be an argument.
So let’s get started with what I hope is the last dress code email of the year….and perhaps the rest of my career.
Clarification: the dress code applies to both male and female students.
Clarification: Picture Day is an Out of Uniform Day and, as such, we have an established Dress Code for it.
- Leggings, yoga pants, and spandex pants may not be worn as pants alone. A dress, skirt, skort, or shorts must be worn over them that are no more than 3 inches above the knee.
- No pants with holes, rips, tears or fraying.
- Shorts: No shorter than three inches above the knee.
Our dress code serves three main purposes. One, it provides consistency in dress. Two, it provides equity in dress (i.e., a level playing field with respect to income and fashion). And three, it encourages what the Catechism of the Catholic Church calls “purity of heart”. Purity of heart “enables us to see according to God, to accept others as ‘neighbors’; it lets us perceive the human body – ours and our neighbor’s – as a temple of the Holy Spirit, a manifestation of divine beauty” (CCC 2519).
We want our students to see their bodies as temples of the Holy Spirit. This requires us to clothe our bodies not only appropriately, but also suitably, given the circumstance. The circumstance in our case is education and, more specifically, education in a Catholic school setting.
If we knew Jesus would greet us at the school door tomorrow, would we wear what we wore today or would we wear something else? While I would not expect the same answer from our entire school community, the question provides a starting point for discussing appropriate clothing in a Catholic educational setting. How does God want us to dress at school? Again, we may not agree on that answer, but the starting point is God; it is not what we see in the media, at the mall, or on the playground.
I sometimes use the phrase “the spirit of our dress code” because the “letter” of our dress code does not always convey the goal.
The spirit of the dress code is to draw less attention to one’s body, not more. It means wearing less revealing clothes, not more revealing. Looser clothes, not tighter. It means showing less skin, not more. Regardless of how you read the letter our dress code, please take into consideration the spirit in which it was written.
- The hem of shorts and skirts should be approaching the knee and be no more than 3” above the knee. The goal is the knee, not the zipper.
- The fit or tightness of shorts and pants should not be form fitting, skin tight, or revealing undergarments.
- Pinch Rule: one should be able to pinch ½” to 1” of material without pinching the skin.
If a female student cannot find shorts that meet the spirit of the dress code, please consider wearing a skort. Several students have recently switched from shorts to skorts. Does this always improve the length issue? No, but it usually improves the tightness/fit issue.
- Look for: straight or loose fit. Avoid: slim, slim-fit, stretch, fitted, tapered, athletic.
- Look for: bermuda shorts, walking whorts, long chino shorts
- Do not roll up hems.
- Children’s Place, Carters, French Toast
- Lands End
- Walmart, Target, Old Navy
If you have diligently tried and you still cannot find dress-code clothing, please call me, so we can discuss your situation. I welcome that conversation.
If you find dress-code clothing, but you cannot afford it, please call me. I welcome the opportunity to discuss some sort of financial assistance.
If you have a special circumstance, anything at all, please call me. When in doubt, please call me.
Here are some recent parent comments and questions regarding our dress code. I added my thoughts in italics.
- Why is this even a discussion? We have a dress code for the important reasons already stated. If we have a dress code and we agree it’s important, then we should enforce it.
- Why enforce it now and not last year or the year before? Short answer: I hate talking about dress code and I put it off. There is no long answer.
- My child has worn the same stuff for the last two years and it hasn’t been a problem. Perhaps, but that was due to lack of enforcement, not a change in dress code.
- Is this a widespread problem? Not at all, but that doesn’t mean we ignore the issues that do exist.
- Don’t we have more important things to discuss? 100% yes. So let’s do our collective best and not make this a discussion point any longer.
- I think the school’s dress code is out of date. Our dress code is pretty standard among Catholic elementary schools and even some high schools. I inherited this dress code and I believe it was reviewed and revised by a committee of parents, teachers and the principal. I do not mean this as critical, only as a matter of fact, but our dress code is not new and, as part of our handbook, every family confirmed it was read and understood.
- Dress code is a sensitive issue, especially for girls with larger body types. I have three daughters and I wholeheartedly agree. Poor body image and all of its negative consequences are very real. We are not trying to call out certain body types. Just the opposite. By standardizing the options and the application of each option, all students have the same choices, and all of those choices can be freely utilized without judgment. In every grade, we have a mix of pants, shorts and skorts.
- Uniform clothes are really hard to find for girls. I agree. For sure, it is difficult. I would say it is really difficult. But it is not impossible and we must try.
- How will specific student situations be handled? Teachers will handle this with extreme care and love. We never want to cause a student to feel less loved or less-than in any way. Most of the dress code issues are in the upper grades. If the teacher believes the student will be ok with a quiet, confidential message, then she will do that. If not, she will reach out to a parent. If, for any reason, the teacher is uncomfortable addressing it, I will do it. I will follow the same guidelines as the teacher plus one additional guideline: if it is a female, I will not address it with the student; I will contact a parent.
I don’t think I have anything left to write regarding dress code. You have the letter of our dress code and I have explained the spirit in which it is to be applied. I hope that you will support both.
As always, thank you for your role in making St. Christopher School such a great place to learn and work.
St. Christopher School Principal