Liz Farrell

Farrell: Beaufort High student's description of school troubling

Carey Burgess in a photograph she posted on her Facebook page.
Carey Burgess in a photograph she posted on her Facebook page. Facebook

I remember lots of things about high school.

Mainly, I remember how hard it was.

There was never one moment during the school year when I thought, "This is it. I'm caught up. I have nothing to read or to study or to write. No teacher is asking me for anything. No measure of achievement is looming on the horizon."

Twenty-two years later, I'm still completing my high school assignments. In fact, if the day ever comes when I finish "Wuthering Heights," I might throw a par-... actually, no.

I'm never going to finish that book.

I made it to page 90 in 1992 -- I know this because the bookmark is still in the book -- but I pretended to have read the whole thing by nodding along to others' insights.

I'm ashamed of this, but I'm taking it off my Past Failures To-Undo List.

No one should live with this guilt.

My classmates who went to Harvard probably read "Wuthering Heights," though, which brings me to another thing I remember about high school: My classmates got into Harvard ... and Yale and Dartmouth and schools that were "the Harvard" and "the Yale" and "the Dartmouth" of whatever state they went to after graduation.

For instance, I went to the Harvard of Adams County, Penn.

This is where they send the people who call Emily Bronte boring.

For me, high school was challenging. There was a constant pressure to do better, learn more, say something smart. This I remember.

One thing I do not remember about high school, however, is having a dress code. I called my old school to make sure. The woman who answered the phone said "Dress code? This isn't caw-myu-nist Rusher."

I'm kidding.

She just said no ... but in a Boston accent.

I had dress codes on the mind last week because I had just read Beaufort High School student Carey Burgess' short position paper on Facebook about what turned out to be her latest dress code violation.

This short position paper was accompanied by pictures of her in the offending outfit, which is decidedly more Duggar than Kardashian -- even if, as some have suggested, she pulled down the skirt to make it look longer for the picture. She still looks like Date-Night Duggar.

I say "short position paper" and not "rant," because Burgess' post was well-written, direct and thoughtful and not at all what I would expect from someone raised during the post-Internet Blah Blah Blah Era, during which everyone 18 and younger seemed to learn to talk in blarfs and insults the second they have a problem with something.

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Burgess wrote her post because she felt targeted. Boys are allowed to wear tight-fitting shorts called Chubbies that celebrate their own tautness, but girls are made out to be morally loose if they wear a skirt above the knees.

Teachers, she said, should concern themselves with more important things.

Like teaching.

One way to look at this situation -- maybe the only way to look at it -- is that no matter what, Burgess broke the rules. Her in-school suspension is therefore warranted.

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You broke the rules, now go dance and cry about your problems with Molly Ringwald and Ally Sheedy.

(I don't actually know if this is what happens during in-school suspension; I only have "The Breakfast Club" as reference.)

But another way to look at this is to wonder why Burgess' description of school sounds so circus-like.

Like a joke.

She was excused from class to go to the vending machine, she said, because a teacher had no lesson planned for the day.

I'm sure there was a reason for this, but come on.

A report in The Island Packet and The Beaufort Gazette found that dress code violations in the school district doubled last year and, even more interesting, boys were the bigger offenders.

The school district isn't sure if the increase in violations is because of heavier policing or more violators. Regardless, it sounds like a lot of effort. A lot of talk. A lot of bureaucracy for something that doesn't involve the word "learn."

Hilton Head Island High School Principal Amanda O'Nan said she thinks an upgrade in technology might be the reason for the increase in violations. More teachers and administrators are using laptops on rolling carts and are present in the hallways, she said.

Rolling carts make it easier to run after a student who hasn't covered up her Ralph Lauren Polo logo with a sticker, I'm sure.

And no matter how much I try not to, I can't help but picture the roll-cart teachers the way I do futuristic robot police.

"Collarless shirt covered with a scarf! VIOLATOR! VIOLATOR! PUNISH! PUNISH!"

Burgess' tale of dress code violations went viral because of how ridiculous a story it is.

I don't know for sure if dress codes help kids learn more. Some people say it does. Others swear it doesn't.

I do know, however, that your high school memories shouldn't sound like you went to clown college.

Follow columnist and senior editor Liz Farrell at and

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