Cleavage or no, kids rule school

Posted: Friday, July 02, 2004

Editor's note: Last week's announcement of a new dress code for Juneau-Douglas High School got under Brandon's collar, and under Korry's skin. Here is their conversation.

Brandon: Listen, Korry. I want to read to you from the Empire's dress code, which you signed on the same day you gave corporate headquarters permission to search your e-mail. It plainly states, "If an employee dresses inappropriately, he/she is counseled by a supervisor or manager. Dress code violations that are exceptionally unprofessional or unsafe can result in the employee being sent home without pay." I am now counseling you to put on some pants.

Korry: Does my three-piece, mesh pantsuit threaten you, Brandon?

Brandon: That's beside the point. The point is that we represent something larger and more respectable than ourselves, and we conform to rules that are there for our own good. When I was in high school I sometimes wore a tight purple short-sleeve shirt with horizontal pinstripes. This was sometime around the Rolling Stones' "Tattoo You" era. At times I wore a black-and-white-checked duffer's cap with this shirt. Needless to say, yearbooks are a source of great embarrassment to me.

Korry: I fondly recall your role as Damone in "Fast Times at Ridgemont High," but I don't understand what this has to do with my comfort, or our profession. Unless, like the Juneau School District, you too believe we should all wear matching uniforms on the long march to the grave.

Brandon: Much as high school is a critical training ground for those who would join the work force, the workplace provides a sort of training regimen for death. I know you don't want to meet your maker while wearing a hoody and a Pleather miniskirt. Do you? I can't imagine that thong panties are all that comfortable (and no, I'm not imagining them at all), but comfort isn't the issue: They're not appropriate for an office with cubicles. As the adolescents of Juneau have demonstrated this year, give an inch on dress code and people will take off a bolt of fabric. The fact that you're an arts writer doesn't exempt you from the rules.

Korry: As kids will always be kids, so too will writers for small-market daily newspapers continue to eat two-day-old leftover chalupas. That is to say, you can put a tie on a chimpanzee, but it's still going to pick its nose. So why not lay off the artificial changes to the surface, and let people be people, and teach them well and trust them to lead the way?

Brandon: Ties are optional. You know that.

Korry: I must have missed that memo. Fortunately, this is a snap-on.

Brandon: A dress code is not repression of self-expression. Nor does its imposition indicate a prevailing mindset toward conformity or against expression. I refer you to the "voting leave" section on Page 44 of the employee handbook: "Employees whose work schedules prevent them from getting to the polls should notify their supervisors when they learn of the scheduling problem. Supervisors will rearrange work schedules so that all employees eligible to vote have time to do so. Note: Some states have specific requirements on voting leave. Please contact Corporate Human Resources for further details." You see, your expression is not merely tolerated, but vigilantly protected. I may not agree with your color schemes, but I will fight to the death to protect your right to blue corduroy.

Korry: Well, at least now I will feel more cozy when I wake up screaming. But I fear that a dress code, say for instance, one at a high school, is indicative of a greater problem - ignorance. Will it make any teenager with a heartbeat less of a hormonal lunatic? Will it prevent assaults in the hallway? Will it cure racism? Will everyone magically score more satisfactorily on standardized tests set out by the No Child Left Behind Act? Or is a dress code just a way of saying, "We don't know what to do about these crazy kids nowadays, but at least they aren't showing butt crack."

Brandon: Hang on a minute. I'm searching for the company's "offensive language" entry.

• Brandon Loomis is city editor of the Juneau Empire and can be reached at brandon.loomis@juneauempire.com; Korry Keeker is the Empire's arts writer and can be reached at korry.keeker@juneauempire.com.



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