Flaunting the Freak Flag, by Gael Graham

Teaching the Article
Exercise 2

High School Dress Codes

American society, which had long valued formality in many public places, including schools, became far more informal in speech, manners, and dress in the 1960s. Rules governing the dress and hairstyles of high school students seemed either a bulwark against the tide of informality or an obstacle to current fashion, depending on one's point of view. Long hair and countercultural attire increasingly symbolized opposition to traditional (adult) culture. Some school administrators believed that controlling students' appearance would shape their attitudes and make them better students. Conflicts between students and administrators over dress codes raged in many parts of the country. By the end of the high school student rights movement (around 1973), many public school dress codes had been liberalized or even abandoned, but in recent years such codes have been revived.

In the following documents, what seems to be the rationale for specific requirements of the dress codes? What values are encoded in the rules? What are the similarities and differences in the codes for students and the one for teachers? In documents B, C, and D, why do the students attack dress codes? What values do they appear to embrace? How do they connect dress codes to a broader critique of education? Why do you think a teacher sued over the document F dress code? How might school officials in Perryville, Knox County, or East Hartford (documents A, E, and F) defend their dress codes in court? How might those officials respond to the student views in documents B, C, and D? Document E is a recent dress code from a southern school district. How is it similar to or different from dress codes of the 1960s? Why do you think dress codes have been brought back, some thirty years after they faded in the mid-1970s? What do you think about high school dress codes, and why? Should there be a dress code for teachers or other adult workers? Why or why not?


A. Dress code of Perryville, Arkansas, School District, 1971-1972
B. "Take Off Your Clothes," editorial from high school underground newspaper in Fargo, North Dakota
C. "The Dress Code at an Average High School," cartoon from the High School Independent Press Service, New York City
D. "If the School Board Gets More Money," cartoon from the New Improved Tide (underground newspaper at John Marshall High School )
E. Middle and high school dress code policy, Knox County, Tennessee, 2004
F. Dress code for school employees, East Hartford, Connecticut, 1972