In 1967 students at LBHS walked out of class to protest new dress rules. It was less about what kids wanted to wear than fairness. Male teachers were humiliating girls by using rulers to measure skirt lengths. Coaches were making boys choose between playing sports and short haircuts.
Fast forward to 2014 and it is déjà vu all over again at LBHS. Pursuant to new campus rules adopted under school board guidelines, the interim principal is ordering teachers to police student grooming and crack down on banned attire. Girls are monitored for exposing bra straps, showing “any amount of cleavage,” and skirt length must be at least “two-thirds distance between hip and knee”. Pants can’t be too baggy or too tight, haircuts and t-shirts can’t “offend” or “distract.”
Talk about mixed messages. The school board voted for on-campus production of the MTV show, and even after it moved off campus due to public outcry the show modeled a sexualized and boozed up LBHS student lifestyle to a whole generation. The current school board made it worse, wasting public resources lobbying for a social host ordinance that fails to reduce teen drinking but instead lowers relative consequences for drug use.
School board member Ketta Brown, currently a candidate for re-election, was PTA president but failed to publicly oppose MTV’s presence on campus. She also went along with the fatally flawed social host ordinance, and now we have poorly drawn new dress rules to curb the very behaviors the board once promoted by inviting MTV to LBHS.
The school board insists the newly imposed dress rules prepare students for “responsible adult life.” Yet, the new rules raise student and family rights issues and diminish student responsibility for social decision making.
Rewind to 1967, when the school board met with student leaders and agreed students should initiate and enforce dress standards through enhanced student government. It was a great civics lesson.
Students should debate options ranging from school uniforms to well-crafted dress codes at other demographically comparable schools and come up with solutions. Unfortunately our school board has ignored repeated calls to restore meaningful student government empowering students to make better choices for themselves.
This newest fiasco is yet another reason to elect a new majority that models good government for students as well as the community.
Christopher Kling, Laguna Beach
The author is the platform committee chairman of Laguna Beach Republicans.