When outgoing U.S. House Speaker John Boehner greeted Pope Francis the other day, the speaker began talking about his choice to wear a green necktie for the pontiff’s visit.
An 8-year-old elementary student from Winslow Elementary School No. 4 was suspended last week for wearing a kelly green polo shirt that violated the district’s uniform requirement. The shirt was not deep green enough, the vice principal reportedly told the mother of student Kylie.
TV station Fox29, which originated the story, didn’t disclose the family’s last name, but quoted the mother as saying, ”My child messed up. I messed it up for my child … but to suspend a child over the shade of a shirt, I found it a little ridiculous.”
Kylie was barred from class the day after she wore the offending shirt, the mother said, after she arrived a few minutes late at the school with Kylie and her twin sister. Both were allegedly dressed that day in regulation shirts.
We don’t think that Kylie messed up. We don’t think her mother did, either.
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First, photographs of the girls holding acceptable and non-acceptable shirts side by side don’t show much variation. Woe to any harried mom or dad who mistakenly puts even color-safe bleach in a load of dark laundry.
Second, the code permits white shirts, navy blue shirts or dark green ones. It’s typical of public-school dress requirements that attempt to make everyone look alike – but don’t require an actual uniform. If white or blue can fit, it’s strangely picky to make kelly green verboten.
The larger point here is about zero-tolerance polices in schools. Their value when it comes to expelling students who bring in weapons or drugs is still an issue of some debate. But zero-tolerance on polo-shirt shades? That’s just silly.
It’s possible that Kylie was suspended for some reason other than failing to coordinate precisely with a Pantone color chart. The mother allowed that her conversations with administrators over the issue were, well, lively. Why punish the student, though?
The school district’s terse response to the controversy suggests that officials are squeezing the dye vat a little too tightly.
”We can confirm that there was a violation of the district’s uniform policy, but we can’t go into detail about the specific violation,” a spokesperson said.
The district’s dress policy states, ”The Winslow Township Board of Education believes that school attire can influence a pupil’s behavior and potentially impact the academic environment.”
Well, yes. But so can restrictions that crush even the tiniest smidgeon of creativity, independence and non-conformity among those pupils.
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