This is the first in a series of weekly bits of advice regarding some of the most widespread discipline problems that can confront even the most prepared teacher. Each one will feature a common discipline scenario and some suggested solutions.
Scenario: A student comes to class wearing inappropriate clothing, conspicuously in violation of the school’s dress code.
Long gone are those days when a dress code violation meant that a student had hair that was too long or a skirt that was too short. Even in more recent years when students began to attend class proud of their newest piercing or tattoo, dress code issues continue to plague teachers and administrators. In fact, there are far more students in proud violation of a school’s dress code than those who do not teach could ever imagine.
Trying to deal tactfully but effectively with boys in tee shirts with appalling puns or references to drugs and alcohol to girls in too-revealing outfits, dress code violations can be a difficult situation for many teachers.
• To minimize the distraction and potential for disruption
• To preserve the offending student’s dignity
• To prevent the situation from reoccurring
Steps to Follow:
• Try to prevent the situation by making sure that students are aware of the dress code and that you do intend to enforce it. Making this clear before a violation happens will make it easier for you to enforce the rule.
• Ignore whatever you can when you can. Sometimes calling attention to a minor infraction can cause a major class disruption as the student attempts to argue with you.
• Speak privately with student violators whenever you can. Calling down a student in front of other students will only cause humiliation and anger.
• Be as matter of fact and succinct as you can. Simply state the rule and ask the student to correct the situation if at all possible. For example, a male student wearing a vulgar tee shirt can just be asked to wear it inside out. A female student without a change of clothes at school can just be reminded not to wear the offensive garment again. Make your point, but be as kind and dispassionate as possible at the same time.
• Often male teachers are uncomfortable at the thought of approaching a female student who wears revealing clothing to school. If you are not comfortable with talking to a student about his or her clothing, enlist a colleague to help you.
Mistakes to Avoid
• Be sensitive to a student’s self-image. Do not belittle or attempt to embarrass a student who violates the dress code.
• If you suspect that a student is wearing clothing that identifies him or her as part of a gang, do not attempt to manage the situation yourself. Involve an administrator.
• Be careful not to place yourself in a difficult situation where you could be accused of wrong doing.
• Do not touch a student who is dressed inappropriately. Such an action on your part may be misconstrued.
• Be careful that you do not violate your school’s dress code yourself!