Finally there are some signs that the hysteria and paranoia descended on the country after the Columbine shooting incident are beginning to fade. In one hopeful indication, many parents recently signed a petition asking that some of the more absurd part of the city's school dress code be abolished. Naturally they were turned down, because the dress code is the best power trip a lot of petty tyrants have ever been on and they are not about to give it up voluntarily.
The dress code never was about safety and the so-called data produced to "prove" that it was, was about as valid as a three dollar bill. After the first year of having a dress code in the Bradley County school system there were glowing reports about the decrease in discipline problems, but the actual figures, obtained with great delay and difficulty, showed that discipline problems went up, not down, at three of the four schools involved.
One of the most ridiculous parts of a ridiculous set of rules is a ban on all denim clothing. It is claimed without any proof whatever that blue jeans somehow cause violent behavior. However, some of the very school board members who have made this claim have been known, in an amazing example of hypocrisy, to show up for work sessions in blue jeans. So far none have become violent, though some have a tendency to be irritable, especially when discussing the county commission. Some who insist that students have "natural" hair color have been known to change their own hair color.
Columbine caused everyone to do a lot of sensible things to improve safety, like locking doors and installing cameras. It also inspired some "let's do something even if its wrong" projects of which dress codes and zero tolerance rules which define plastic knives and decorative purse chains as "weapons" are among the worst. Perhaps now that nearly 3000 lives were lost in 9-11 and well over a hundred in Iraq we can get the dozen or so lost at Columbine in better perspective. While this was indeed a tragedy there are many weekends in which the nation loses more students to traffic accidents than were lost at Columbine. But since the networks don't show these accidents 400 times and bring out 50 experts to analyze what is wrong with our society the way they did with Columbine, these accidents make only local news.
Recently, the principal of Cleveland High School, while discussing another subject, suggested that students differ and it is not a good idea to try to make them all fit in the same box. Apparently he failed to realize that the dress code is the worst example of doing exactly that.
It is true that letting students dress as they please will result in some weird outfits. It is also true that this will cause absolutely no harm to anybody. We should be teaching innovation to our students. Instead, the dress code demands mindless conformity. Any deviation from the usual, good or bad, is always disturbing to those without vision, but progress occurs only when people dare to be different. Those with the ability to someday make the world a better place by questioning "the way things have always been done" may well start their quest for better knowledge by questioning whether there is any valid reason to dress "the way it's always been done."