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Dress code policies stir thoughtful debate

Some students, like Nikko Robinson '17, are in favor of changes to the dress code policy.

Some students, like Nikko Robinson '17, are in favor of changes to the dress code policy.

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Three representatives of Mount Camel’s Student Council met with the school’s leadership on Monday, January 23 to present their concerns about the school’s current dress cod and their suggestions for revising some policies.  Senior Jaylen Anderson, along with juniors Zac Styka and Luke Ehrenstrom, met with Mount Carmel president Ned Hughes, Principal John Stimler, and several other administrators for over an hour.  The meeting concluded without any immediate changes, but with a commitment on the part of both students and administration to continue the dialogue.

The meeting between administrators and student leaders is not the first time Mount Carmel dress code policies have been debated. Many students can recall arguing the merits of an infraction that has led to a detention or fine, or questioning the fairness of  consequences.

For example, senior Nikko Robinson recalls that he received a dress code violation as a freshman.  But Robinson forgot he had a detention, failed to serve it, and next thing he knew, the dean was telling him he had a Saturday JUG and there was nothing he could do to change it.

“I’m not a bad student. I only received a detention because I didn’t have an ID on.  The JUG was pointless.  All we did was sit there in silence.”

As Robinson’s experience illustrates, at Carmel, the dress code is law.  Teachers see students every period, and at any time can give out a dress code for any variation from the student handbook.

The problem is that some teachers seem to place more emphasis on the dress code than others, leading to inconsistent enforcement.

Mrs. Jennifer Smola, one of the math teachers, is matter-of-fact about her responsibility.”I enforce the policies because it is required of me. It is my job.”

Others, like Mr. Jeff Enright, Dean of the Honors Program, express concern that the policy is taken too seriously, leading to unnecessary consequences like the situation Robinson encountered. “I think over the years, (the policy) has gotten too detailed.”

Students can complain all they want about the dress code policy, but most assume that one more voice won’t dramatically change the outcome. Many students incorrectly assume that Padre single-handedly makes the policies in a deliberate attempt to ruin everyone’s lives.

In reality, while Padre is one of several voices who annually review dress code policy, he does not have the final word.  Nor are those rules set by the principal, Mr. John Stimler, who insists  “My personal preference is not what drives the dress code.

Instead, he notes that their job is to enforce the policies that are developed by the administration and confirmed by the Board of Directors.

While many students have strong, negative opinions of dress code policies, there are some, such as junior Luke Ehrenstrom, who feel it has a purpose.

“Like Mr. (Ned)Hughes said, laws are needed for the world to run. At Carmel it’s no different. We need rules.”

However, Ehrenstrom’s classmate John Cordova ’18 argues rules should be limited to important matters, while he “always receive dress codes for dumb things like no ID or belt.”  He adds,  “I just don’t like those rules.”

Cordova is hoping that some things will change in the near future, but since his high school journey is more than half complete, he doubts change it will happen.

While he has yet to receive a detention this year, freshman Peter Vandeveld has an even stronger opinion of the dress code policy than Cordova. “I think it’s (ridiculous) that someone who isn’t wearing an ID but has it in their pocket gets a 30 minute or hour detention after school. If I had the chance I would abolish that rule.”

Sophomore Gino Antonietti also rarely receives a dress code often, but still would like to see some changes. If given the chance, Antonietti “would definitely change the hair and beard policy.”

Two “frequent flyers” in the detention room, sophomore Carlos Gutierrez, and junior Leo Almaraz, have a lot to say about the policy. Gutierrez receives a detention twice a week. “Mostly school-lates and dress codes, nothing to do with my behavior.” Almaraz argues, “Tell me a job that I want that makes me wear an ID for every second. This whole dress code system is stupid and not worth my time.”

Still, senior Charlie Pasciak doesn’t understand how people can complain about all the policies. “For me, it’s easy to not get into trouble. The only time I ever received a detention is when I was late because of my mom or brother.”

Senior Austin O’Brien doesn’t have any strong views towards the policies for a simple reason. “The policy has never affected me personally. I think I maybe got one detention my entire time at Carmel.”

As principal, Stimler deals with a lot of angry students who complain over the dress code policy, but is committed to enforcing what he’s been given:  “We should enforce the dress code by the handbook”

In addition to those complaints, Stimler points out that he often hears compliments about how Mount Carmel students look, which points to the value of the current dress code.  He acknowledges that the details of dress code have changed over time, but notes, “It has been fairly consistent over the past 17 years.”

Because the policy has been in place for many years without change, Mount Carmel President Ned Hughes, in his first year, has spent some time looking over the handbook. While he shares the belief that rules are necessary in life, he agrees that some rules can have negative connotations.

One idea Hughes has floated is to reconfigure discipline consequences like JUGs and detentions to involve more personal reflection. He’d like to gear those consequences toward motivating a student to analyze how he can stay away from those scenarios.  He also is in favor of eliminating the option of paying off a dress code violation through a fine, arguing that fines don’t deter a student from making the same mistake twice.

While Hughes believes that, “Discipline should always have a positive result,” he also knows that “(developing) proper skills in life takes discipline.”

Nevertheless, Hughes appreciates the fact that students are asking questions about the policies and encourages them to ask more. He promises that he definitely will be looking into current policies, and will try to work with students to make them more meaningful.

 

 

 

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Dress code policies stir thoughtful debate