Monday, April 5, 2010

It's Not The Dress That's The Problem

This is one of those posts that started out as one thing, but quickly became about something else for me. Let's head on over to Oxford High School in Oxford, Alabama to check in on some hubbub that's been going on. While we're there, let's create a little hubbub of our own, shall we? Because from what I can tell, we're going to have to, as the part of this story that made me yell, "What?!" was just completely brushed over in the article that I read.

The article to which I'm referring comes to us courtesy of AOL News. It is there that we learn the tale of a one Erica DeRamus, whose choice of a prom dress ended up getting her not only kicked out of the prom, but suspended for three days on top of that. Really? Really. Apparently, the school has a dress code "...which stipulates that necklines must not plunge below students' breastbones and skirt hems must not be higher than six inches above the knee." Huh. Wait. What?

See, now I thought that this was going to either be some sort of ambiguous dress code requirement or it was going to be something that would have required kids to dress in a way that made members of the FLDS church seem like bimbos. Neither one of those was the case! Serious, does that really say that "skirt hems must not be higher than six inches above the knee"?? I believe it does! Look at your knee! Look at where six inches above it is! Holy crap! Six inches?! That's short! I don't care who you are, you're getting into dangerous territory with a skirt that's six inches above your knee. I'm not sure if I think that it's a perfectly reasonable (not to mention easily attainable) limit to set or if I think that they might want to consider making it three or four inches instead. Holy crap, six inches. That doesn't leave much to the imagination. God forbid if they bend over in something like that. That would render the imagination completely useless.

That requirement seems a little contradictory or counter-productive to the other requirement that the necklines not plunge below the breastbone. Look, you can do a lot with cleavage. It's very a very versatile anatomical part. As proud as all of you guys are about your penile units, y'all ain't got nothin' on our breasts. They're magical. We can do damn near anything with 'em. (And I realize that guys don't care what it is that we do with them, just as long as they can stare at them or, on a good day, grope them. But that's not my point and you know it.) But even if the lowest part of the neckline was below the breastbone, that doesn't necessarily mean that an undue amount of cleavage is going to be revealed. It's not like the neckline goes straight across or anything.

So, just to recap this part of the story, it's OK in Alabama to have your ass damn near coming out of the back of your dress, but keep your breasts under some sort of burlap sack, would you, please? Now, just to see where Ms. DeRamus went afoul of these guidelines, let's look at the dress in question, shall we? Behold!

Oh, good Lord, what the hell is that?! Wow. It's like Tinkerbell on crack. That is not an attractive dress, miss. I'm sorry, but it's hideous. I realize that you can't ban someone from the prom for poor fashion sense, but that's really bad. And she's a cute girl, too. That dress really doesn't do her justice at all. But judging solely on the screen shots from the video (thanks for the crappy reporting WBRC-TV and not including a head-on full length shot of her wearing the dress in question), I'm not sure where you would begin measuring that thing. It's awfully poofy.

According to the principal, a one Trey Holloday, the students and their parents were notified three times in advance of the prom as to what the dress code standards were. That seems reasonable. He also said that "Of the 352 Oxford High students who attended the prom, officials said 18 violated the dress code." Hmm. Five percent. That seems about right. (After seeing Erica's dress, though, I'd really like to see what other folks who got booted from the prom were wearing! I think that would be highly entertaining, yet probably horrifying at the same time!) All of that being said, her dress, while hideous, didn't seem too out of line. It appears to fit within the 6 inches rule. And the cleavage thing seems within limits as well. But I wasn't there, so it's hard to say. Regardless, I think it's fair to say that the dress clearly could fall within a gray area and she probably should have checked with those who make the decision on these sorts of things beforehand and avoided all of this.

But here's the part that just blew me away. Ready? It doesn't have anything to do with the dress or the prom or the dress code. Of the 18 students, Erica is the only one who was suspended for three days. That's because there was a choice of punishments. Erica's choice was suspension. Do you want to guess what the other punishment was that the other 17 students opted for? You'll never guess, so I'm just going to tell you. The other 17 students opted for paddling. Um, wait. Paddl...what the what?

Correct. Apparently, paddling is a punishment option at schools in Alabama! Are you kidding me?! Since when?! Actually, I suppose that the "when" is easy to answer. It's more the "Why are they still doing this?" question that I'd like to have answered. Even Erica sees the archaic-ness of the practice, explaining her choice by saying, "I'm a little too old to get paddled...This is high school, we're seniors. If we're going to act up, give us another option besides being paddled because this isn't the 1940s. We don't take corporal punishment now." Good. For. Her.

And if you read this article over at AOL News or anywhere else, the whole paddling issue is not even addressed. It's just brushed over like it's perfectly normal (which it is not, by the way). You folks in Alabama really paddle 18-year old seniors (who fit the legal definition of an adult) who act up? Why? What is the rationale behind that? What in the world are you people thinking?!

Of course, now I'm totally curious. What does this paddling entail? How big is the paddle? Are we talking like fly-swatter size? Ping-pong paddle size? Tennis racket size? Oh! Wait! Is it like a spanking machine?? Do they make the wrong-doer crawl through the legs of a line of people and they all swat them on the butt as they make their way through? Or is it some sort of Rube Goldberg contraption that they're strapped to until an egg makes its way down a conveyor belt and lights a match which burns a string that unleashes a paddling device upon the hind quarters of the moral defy-er? That must be it. (I wonder where they keep it. Oh! There must be a dungeon! Schools in Alabama have paddling dungeons! Pass it on.)

And who actually does the paddling? I would quit my job (and seriously reconsider my career choice) if I were told that one of my duties was now going to be to physically beat students. Who is OK with performing that act? What kind of people are they? I guess they're the kind of people who work in schools in Alabama where they still paddle students. Un-freaking-believable. I have suddenly forgotten all about the chick and her prom dress that may or may not have been too short. I am now more concerned by the fact that there are still schools in this country that paddle children as a punishment. And I am consumed by the fact that it is seemingly an accepted practice to many folks. I think I'm going to go and contemplate whether or not the wall around my walled-off compound is high enough. I want those people kept far away from me.

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Scott Jacobs said...

"I would quit my job (and seriously reconsider my career choice) if I were told that one of my duties was now going to be to physically beat students."

Are you fucking kidding me? I would leave whatever field I was in at the merest of hints that I would be allowed to beat students...

The Young, I hate them. God do I ever hate them...

As an aside, considering the dress code, I'm not sure it would be legal to post pics of all 18 students who broke code.

Oh god, what if one was a guy... Oh sweet Jesus, I need to go stab out my eyes...

Mare said...

Hey, Scott.

Wow. I could have gone the rest of my life without considering that one of the other 17 was a guy. That's disturbing at best.

Hand me that knife when you're done. I'm stabbing mine out, too.

~ Mary

Mark said...

I don't know whether they still do it but schools in Texas paddled as recently as the time Mare was in high school. Paddling for what looks tantamount for a dress code violation isn't something that was done, though.

I think the "why" and "the rationale behind that" and the "what in the world are you people thinking" have to do with the discipline options available in schools.

In my experience -- and, yes, I have experienced it -- paddling was reserved for multiple offenses or perceived serious offenses (usually fighting). By the time someone got paddled, the "enlightened" options had almost always been tried and found lacking.

"We're going to call your parents." Yeah, good luck with that, good luck with the parents caring, and good luck with the parents not blaming you for persecuting little Johnny Angel, even when the parents are scared of him and they are fully aware that he is a felon starter kit.

"We're going to put you in detention." Oh, no, not a day-long opportunity to draw, daydream, or plot revenge without being bothered by a teacher droning on and on about math. I mean, when will I ever use math in the real world?

"We're going to expel you." I don't like being here, now you're not going to let me come? Why didn't I think of this sooner?

As for who does the paddling, if you're lucky it's the principal or vice principal. if you're not lucky, it's a coach.

Personally, I don't have a problem with it and I don't think it is equivalent to "beating a student" any more than spanking is necessarily equivalent to "beating a child." If you can't count on respect to keep a student in line maybe a little fear can substitute. Maybe the better answer is just to kick some of the incorrigibles out of school but then you lose funding and end up in court and whatnot.

Scott Jacobs said...

God, I can only imagine how bad it would be if the tennis coach was handed the paddle...

Or the baseball coach.

Mare said...

Interesting perspective, Mark. Now I have to ask you, what did you do to get the ol' paddle? And what would normally constitute a typical paddling? How many whacks were generally administered? I'd like the lowdown of the procedure, please.

I agree that the options that are available which don't involve a physical beating will be less than effective on those who need the most discipline. And there are plenty of high school kids who probably deserve to be beaten senseless, but I just can't get behind the paddling thing.

And I agree, Scott. Walking in to receive your paddling and finding the tennis coach or the baseball coach standing there would be slightly unnerving.

~ Mare

Mark said...

The only things I can specifically remember getting "swats" for were fighting and the one time I told my sixth grade Language Arts (I'm pretty sure that was their upscale name for an English class) teacher, in front of the class, that if she was too clueless to know that "burnt" was an actual word and not, as she claimed, "Southern slang" I had no reason to listen to her for the rest of the year and then, in the office, refused to apologize to "someone who doesn't even know the official colors of The University of Texas."

I'm pretty sure the number of whacks was 1-3. I don't remember getting more than 3. Girls were exempt. It was pretty much "grab your ankles and look straight ahead." You always changed into jeans if you got in trouble during PE or athletics and were wearing shorts. The swatter always offered to shake your hand afterwards but never tried the famous "this is going to hurt me more than it is going to hurt you" beforehand. It hurt for a couple of minutes but that's it.

The fear wasn't the tennis or baseball coach, the fear was the football coach. They usually called the football coach for fights or repeat offenders. Rumor has it that waiting for the football coach to make his way over from his office to the principal's office was far more punishment than the whacks themselves.

Mare said...


That is an awesome reason, as a
6th grader, to receive a school paddling. Burnt. Nice.

So girls were exempt, eh? Interesting. I guess that's not the case in Alabama because the other 17 kids that violated the dress code opted for the paddling and I'd find it hard to imagine that they were all boys. (And, like Scott had said, I'd want to stab my eyes out if I had to see what the boys were wearing to violate the dress code.)

Very interesting. Thanks for the inside scoop on school sanctioned beatings. =)

~ Mary