If it wasn’t clear before, it certainly is now.
The Beaufort County School District needs to adopt a “no-touch” policy for its uniform inspections.
Not a policy that says “don’t touch a student inappropriately.”
Not a policy that says “as long as it doesn’t make the student uncomfortable.”
Do. Not. Touch.
That should be the district-wide take-away from what happened last week when the mother of an H.E. McCracken eighth-grader filed a police report alleging that a female teacher repeatedly put her hand in the female student’s front pants pocket to determine whether the fit or fabric of the pants met the dress code.
While it is not a common occurrence for a parent — or three parents as it were — to ask the police department to investigate an incident involving the school dress code here, the district would be wise to listen to the public’s response to it.
And the public, as publics are wont to be, is quite outraged.
Mostly. There are a few people who don’t see the big deal.
A friend and I were chatting about this the other day, actually. We both attended private schools that had uniforms — true uniforms, that is, not uniform guidelines as it is with the county’s schools. And neither of us could picture a situation in which we would have felt bothered by a teacher putting her hands on us in the same way it was reported to have happened at McCracken.
Not bothered by a hand that is not yours in your pocket?
I know. It sounds crazy to say it now, in 2017, when the words “teacher’s hand” and “in my pocket” should never meet in a sentence because of the conclusion that is naturally drawn from that.
But really. My principal was a nun and her frown was so permanent it rested on her shoulders. She did not love kids, as near as I could tell. And she did not like rule-breakers, as near as I absolutely know because I got in trouble all the time. Still, if I had told my mother that Sister Maria had put her hand in my pants pocket to see if they were up to code, I’m am truly certain her response would’ve been “I’m trying to watch ‘Guiding Light.’”
Back then, though, moms didn’t yet know the full scope of absolute human depravity that exists from sea to shining sea. Thank you, internet, for showing all of us the many creative ways monsters hurt kids.
Teachers, by definition, are not monsters, though. They typically adore their students (even, in a lot of cases, the very annoying students), and their students feel likewise about them. It’s a shame that the student-teacher relationship has to be so specifically and coldly defined these days.
I was not there in the classroom during the uniform inspection in question, of course, but I do not believe the teacher meant any harm or even thought that what she was doing could be construed to be a violation in any way.
But, simply put, even if it wasn’t, it was.
Beyond that it was unnecessary.
School uniforms are meant to remove distraction from the classroom. They are meant to be a signal to students to take learning seriously and to make parents’ and kids’ lives easier.
If teachers and administrators didn’t keep uniform violations in check, there would be absolutely no point to having one in the first place.
But if you have to touch a student because you can’t visually tell whether what that student is wearing is a dress-code violation, then you are taking this way too far.
If you cannot discern the compliance of pants with your eyes, then the pants are fine. They’re fine. Even if it does very technically break the rules just a little, they are fine.
Parents at McCracken were informed Wednesday night that the school will no longer touch students during uniform inspections. This was a smart and proactive move on Principal Jerry Henderson’s part.
Soon, superintendent Dr. Jeff Moss will meet with all of the district’s principals and look at ways they can maintain the uniform policy without making kids feel uncomfortable in the process.
There are very good reasons a teacher might need to touch a student — to break up a fight, assist in a medical emergency or even to comfort a crying first-grader who misses his family — but scrutinizing fabric or fit is not one of them.
To protect children and to protect teachers, who face enough grief as it is, the “no-touch uniform inspection” really is the only way to go.