Outfits are Not a Priority

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This week’s example of misplaced priorities in education comes in a memo from the top brass of Dallas Independent School District. Like all districts in the nation, DISD is also wading through the uncertainty in education this pandemic season. However, DISD made an announcement to faculty that made me wonder what they are thinking.  Apparently, students’ choices of attire while on campus has stirred the ire of some educators.

In a memo from Orlando Riddick, the Acting Chief of School Leadership, students who arrived at school wearing jeans or without optional uniform accessories like ties, were receiving negative consequences including detention and in-school suspension. In-school suspension removes students from the classroom and places them in a central location for the entire school day. In-school suspension means lost instruction time. Mr. Riddick correctly asked that students not be penalized for such infractions in light of the difficulty all students are facing at this time.

However, in the same memo, Mr. Riddick requested students wear solid white shirts and bottoms in the district’s “official colors of navy, black or khaki.” So close, and yet, so far. I was so disappointed to see there was still a hint of focus on standardized dress in a district with so many more significant problems, students showing up in their pajamas should not be a concern. 

When we are faced with monumental challenges that are vaporizing learning outcomes, we have to decide what our greatest priorities are and address them. In Dallas, my experience reminds me that what kids are wearing is not among the priorities. Safety during COVID-19, access to materials and technology, attendance, lack of parental involvement, special education service noncompliance, academic underachievement, hunger, identifying disabilities, socioeconomic concerns, safe buildings and communities, attention to medical and mental health services and other concerns are always on the forefront in Dallas, with the exception of COVID-19, which is new for everyone. Maybe we can leave outfits for a time when some of the bigger fish are done frying.

I have yet to see the color of a student’s pants or shirt make a meaningful impact on achievement. Now is a time when everyone is weary and exhausted in the effort to ensure children are learning mid-pandemic. Good leaders know how to prioritize and make the best of the human and other resources available to them. There are good leaders in Dallas ISD, hopefully, that will be reflected in future correspondence about district priorities.

Dr. Teresa Sanders
Dr. Sanders is an international bestselling author, education researcher and student and family advocate in the education setting. Dr. Sanders has presented at international education conferences and is the founder of Safari Small Schools, an innovative micro school in Canton, Texas. Dr. Sanders created Safari Small Schools to meet the needs of learners who aren’t thriving in the traditional classroom. Dr. Sanders can be reached at DrSanders@safarismallschools.com.

The views expressed in this article are the opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the Chalkboard Review team.

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