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Monday, June 16, 2014

Dress One-Half Inch Too Short? Change It On Last Day of High School

Violet in her dress

"On the last day of classes, June 5, 2014, Violet Burkhart wore a sundress that she had worn to school before. But two hours before dismissal, she says teachers pulled her aside and measured her dress in the middle of the hallway while other students watched.

"The teachers told Burkhart her dress violated the school’s dress code because the hemline was a half-inch too short. They told her she had to go home and change.

“'They pretty much humiliated me,' the 17-year-old said.

"Her mother was just as upset. 'I literally looked back at the clock and I’m thinking, it’s one o'clock in the afternoon on her last day of her senior year. My daughter — it’s supposed to be one of her best days and she’s there crying,' said Amy Redwine (Violet's mother).

("Dress That Got Teen Sent Home from School Looks Fine on Mom at Daughter’s Graduation." June 15, 2014)

So, what protest did Mother Amy judge most appropriate to support her straight-A student? She attended her daughter's graduation at Central Davidson High School in Lexington, North Carolina, wearing the same dress that got Violet into trouble.

I love this reaction for a couple of reasons.

First of all, the simple display by Redwine was minimally confrontational, and, in fact, many people were proud of the ladies for standing up for their beliefs. After all, Amy confirmed she wouldn't have let her daughter wear the dress in the first place if it was "inappropriate," and Violet had worn the dress to school five times prior to the incident without any directive to change clothes.

In addition, Amy Redwine is not challenging the school's dress code but the manner in which the situation was handled.

On Facebook, Amy wrote:

"When a teacher comes to you and says "grab your crotch" and makes you stand there while they measure it in front of everybody that's what's wrong about this. My mom is not an informant nor am I. I love my teachers, still do after they brought me down."

I also think the allegation of a dress code violation is just plain silly and constitutes bad judgment. One-half inch too short? Last day of school and 1:00 o'clock at that? Measuring the length in the very public hallway, not in private?

I bet Violet's beautiful appearance was wrongly judged "too sexy" because other eyes -- some jealous and some sexist -- wrongly put the onus of some "cooked-up" temptation on the high school girl. Judge the dress for yourself. I think it is relatively modest.

Think about this: maybe schools should concentrate more on teaching boys that girls are not sexual objects instead of shaming girls for their attractive bodies. Many feel as if guys are born into a world where they feel entitled to possess women's bodies and have their opinion on the way they dress."

"Methinks the school doth protest too much -- much ado about nothing" as the Bard would say.

And, by the way, the dress code at Central Davidson High School is admittedly vague. According to the school, it doesn't allow "Shorts, skirts, skorts and dresses shorter than mid-thigh," noting that "Mid-thigh is a difficult measure."

In reality, school authorities should be ashamed for sticking so tightly to the somewhat vague "letter of school regulations" considering (1) Violet's history of wearing the dress, (2) Violet's straight-A scholarship, and (3) Violet's special situation -- her last high school day, a time with tremendous social and emotional significance.

Here is yet another example of those in authoritative positions ignoring common sense in favor of rigidly applying no tolerance guidelines. I taught high school seniors for many years. I was often considered to be a disciplinarian, but without using practicality and prudence in judgments of wrongs, I would have been fired. Young people can and will make errors in most given situations. Teachers must understand each student is a sensitive individual and each situation is unique.

I think the key to discipline involves understanding a variety of possible explanations for any behavior and a wide scope of dealing with any real threats in the school environment. From what I read about the Violet Burkhart fiasco, the school inflicted the major threat upon a faithful and commendable student. If you will, allow me a metaphor -- Central Davidson choose to discipline "a loyal employee (senior student) of the firm (school) for a minuscule infraction while serving her last day of work.

Mom, Amy, in the dress.

Burkhart had on a blue and black dress for the graduation ceremony. "It was the same length," she told Fox News. She also said she is looking forward to college. She is planning to attend Davidson County Community College in the fall to study culinary arts.

Good luck, Violet. I know how tough it is to make good grades in high school and graduate with honors. Just remember to keep yourself together and don't let one silly confrontation make you bitter or more apt to mistrust college authorities. All students suffer some indignation in school. It is very unfortunate you had to go through such a "goofy" embarrassment. I think you and Mom kept all things in perspective very well. Now, conquer your new studies and find tons of new happiness.

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