For people charged with preparing the young for a fluid world, educators can have a lingering habit of defaulting to one-note rigidity. Case in point: Hugo Elementary in the northern suburbs of St. Paul.
Emily Stewart's five-year-old daughter went to school last week in a sundress given to her by her grandmother. She wore jeans underneath and a sweater atop. She was, in the lexicon of kindergarten fashion, cute as a button.
But when she came home that day, Emily noticed the dress was gone, replaced by a T-shirt. Her daughter was crying.
It turns out the White Bear school district has a rule against spaghetti straps, which were featured in the offending garment. So a teacher sent the girl to the nurse's office to change, saying she needed “privacy,” according to Emily.
Chalk it up to the ongoing Dress Code Wars, where students occasionally push the limits, and administrators occasionally respond with rules from the Victorian Era.
The idea is to temper a sometimes sexualized environment. The problem, of course, is that there is no sexualized environment in kindergarten. Thinking otherwise just makes you a pervert. That leaves teachers to enforce an edict that only defeats the grander point of higher learning, which is to wisely assess these nuances of life, then adapt accordingly.
Emily went to Principal Jason Healy for an explanation. He could provide none, she says, other than to say the whole dress code thing has been subject to ongoing debate.
“I think that when we’re talking about the body of a little girl and determining what’s appropriate and what’s not, you need to talk to the parent because that’s a violation of her privacy and her body without consulting anybody,” Emily told Fox 9.
But Healy did promise to speak with the teachers, she says, and that something like this will never happen again.