Letters: Clothing just a small part

Principal sets the tone for the school, and has authority over and bears responsibility for what happens

Editor, The News:

Re: Skater kid’s clothes banned (The News, April 24).

In the public school system, the issue of banned clothing can be applied not only students, but to others as well, and with good reason.

In response to Neil Corbett’s recent article, I’m reminded of a similar incident in a Coquitlam school at which I taught.

Though the school was only a few years old, tradespeople were periodically in and out attending to jobs as contracted out through the district office.

On this occasion, a couple of workers showed up, fortunately at a point in the day when there were few students in the halls.

One of them was wearing a T-shirt with a large demeaning logo, minimally acceptable in public, and definitely unacceptable in a middle school environment.

This news spread quickly through the staff, and the principal appeared in short order.

The worker was taken aside and privately told that such attire had offended staff and would be unsuitable for the students to see.

It was made clear that he could not work on the school site without changing things up, but there were options, (just like students are usually given).

Did he have another T-shirt with him to change into?

Could he turn the current one inside out?

Would he prefer to borrow a school T-shirt for the day?

This fellow felt embarrassed when he realized there was a problem.

He had logically enough just thought of the school as another construction site, and was willing to wear his shirt inside out for the day when he realized that, in this environment, the image on it would be offensive.

He wore appropriate T-shirts after that, and was a good sport about it.

The principal sets the tone for the school, and has authority over and bears responsibility for what happens on the school site, including the school grounds, during school hours.

Teens and pre-teens are  aware of fashion trends and slogans, and if anything of questionable virtue shows up on a clothing item, no matter who’s wearing it, the news flashes around the school at warp speed.

Those students in the know are more than willing to quickly translate lettering or messaging to the uninitiated, and by the end of the day, it’s everywhere.

Capable principals work hard at establishing a school climate in which students and staff feel respected, valued, and therefore safe.

Students learn about this as they come to realize that their actions, attitudes, and behaviours can have strong effects on others.

The goal is to encourage them to want to make a positive impact on their peers and to serve as role models for the younger students.

It takes a long time to create a good tone within a school, and a lot of hard work to maintain it.

Keeping an eye on the appropriateness of clothing worn at school is just a small part of the task.

Linda Nelson

Pitt Meadows