Civvies, teenagers and rules

4 - Civvies day.jpg

Are certain school rules unrealistic and dated?


A mini drama has unfolded on social media. Picture this – A pretty matric girl dressed in a skinny jean, and a burgundy halter neck top. Her long hair is in a loose bun and she is wearing flat sandals. She looks like most teenagers on their way to a movie or a shopping trip with their moms. Walking past her in a Mall, you might glance at her because she looks pretty, or you like her jeans or the style of her fashionable top. It all sounds pretty…. uhm, normal, doesn’t it? Not like her butt cheeks are hanging out under a pair of ripped denim shorts, or a see-through top is leaving nothing to the imagination? Nothing scandalous at all? So what is the drama all about?


The issue was that this young girl was not going to a movie with friends or shopping with her mom. She was dressed for a civvie day at her private senior school. According to reports, the school is very specific, and strict about what attire is allowed on civvie days. And this girl’s top was classified as “inappropriate”. And the local newspaper states that the head mistress said her outfit was offensive. The comment was also made that there were male staff and boys around. Implying what? That the males on campus would be lead on by her? Get “aroused” by the way she was dressed? I am wondering if there is a formal document around rules for civvies day. A document that needs to be signed by each student acknowledging that they understand the rules. Each family has different rules – we all have our own values and those are the values we instill on our children. And what is unacceptable by one group, could be acceptable to another.


It made me wonder if there is a formal guideline document like this at our school? I don’t actually know? (For bullying there certainly is)  I do know however that girls are not allowed for example, to wear make-up, or wear very short shorts on civvies days. The reason for the last mentioned, is pretty obvious. I guess I am lucky in the sense that I have an 11-year old tweenie who would rather hide her body than put it on show. So revealing, runway type clothing, is not part of her wardrobe anyway. Her Valentine’s civvie day outfit was a pair of above-the-knee denim shorts, a flowy red top finished off with gladiator sandals.  And that very Valentine’s morning she still had a wardrobe crisis because in her opinion her new shirt was too tight.  Which it really wasn’t.


This drama made me think back, over 20 years ago to be more specific, of the rules we had as teenage school girls. No make-up, no highlights, no clear nailpolish or long nails. Not even nailpolish on your toenails which are permanently in black school shoes or sports tekkies anyway. One earing in each ear, no necklaces or bracelets. Did we like these rules? Hell no! Did we follow the rules? Hell yes! Why? I don’t know. Out of fear? Out of respect? Or was it purely the times we grew up in? Our parents didn’t question the rules at schools. And as teenagers we didn’t have a say in anything. There wasn’t room, or opportunity for debate or negotiation. We had to be seen, not heard. We were encouraged to follow, not lead. Those who had opinions were cheeky and defiant. Labeled as troublemakers and rebels.


But what is YOUR opinion?


It would be unfair of me me asking your opinion, without stating mine of course. I think this situation has been blown out of proportion, by the media, and by social media where everyone has an opinion. The remarks on the school’s facebook page vary from rude, out of order, to funny and tongue-in-the-cheek.  Rules are there to protect and if you don’t like the rules of an institution you challenge them from the beginning, or choose to leave. Mentioning the presence of male staff was not a very clever move, because it implies that the male staff and male pupils cannot control themselves and if something should happen, they could not be held responsible for their actions or comments. The girl was offered an oversized, white t-shirt which she tied at the back. Why did she tie it at the back? Because it was too big or because she was trying to make a point or be cheeky? Who knows….


If this was MY child, how would I react? I would probably also be very angry. Humiliated even. Would I have vented on social media and post pictures of my daughter in her outfit? Maybe?  OK, to protect my daughter, probably not.


I guess this is an educational opportunity for all parents with tweeny or teenage children!