More on Midriffs

From the section titled “Student Safety Rules” of the 2001-2002 Parent Handbook for Wells Memorial School in Harrisville, New Hampshire (emphasis mine):

  1. Students are not to leave the school grounds without permission.
  2. Students are to use school property with respect and concern for others.
  3. Students are expected to respect others’ rights while using the halls. This includes no running in the halls.
  4. Students are to follow the direction of staff members at all times.
  5. Children and adults will treat each other with respect and appropriate concern for health, safety, welfare, and the rights of others.
  6. Students shall not have gum, candy, or soda at school (except on special occasions).
  7. Students will dress appropriately while at school. Midriffs should be covered and there are to be no t-shirts with inappropriate pictures or words.
  8. Playground safety rules:
    1. Children are to remain on the playground away from the doors until the bell rings. They are not to enter without permission from the adult supervising.
    2. Students are responsible for respecting the rights and welfare of others on the playground.
    3. Students will follow the direction of the person supervising in all instances.
    4. The throwing of snowballs and making tunnels on school property is not permitted.
    5. Sliding on the ice on the playground is not permitted.
    6. Games with rough physical contact and tackle football are not permitted.
    7. Students are not allowed to take their shirts off.
    8. In order to play in the snow, snow pants, boots, and mittens or gloves must be worn.
    9. During lunch time appropriate eating behavior and manners are expected.
I find myself in complete agreement of all of the above with the exception of 7 and 8g. It’s one thing to make rules about snow tunnels — kids get killed in snow tunnels. It’s another thing entirely to dictate dress and midriff-covering standards.

I’m trying very hard to conjure and image the meeting of the school safety committee where the “Students are not allowed to take their shirts off.” rule was established. What safety issue brought on this rule? A rash of severe sunburns? Children irrationally taking off their shirts in mid-winter? Imagine.


Andrew's picture
Andrew on June 18, 2002 - 04:34 Permalink

Then you go and inspect the schools play ground equipment and find bolts that stick out of the wood, rotten board and goal nets not braced to the ground. Go figure.

stephen's picture
stephen on June 18, 2002 - 16:05 Permalink

When I played tennis in my teens I always made it a rule not to take off my shirt no matter where I was playing or with who. Partly because of the sunburn factor (you focus on the game and forget how long you’ve actually been out there), also because professional tennis players never take off their shirts and also because girls couldn’t and it didn’t seem fair that if they couldn’t I still could. I think the no midriff/no shirts off rule has a lot to do with teen hormone levels. Keep your eye on the ball, so to speak…

Kevin's picture
Kevin on June 22, 2002 - 17:08 Permalink

Pete, I think dress codes become problems when it is decided there should be a dress code.

Let me put that a different way: when there is a dress code kids find it easy to target the code as symbolic of the teen-angst that so often manifests in them as a sense of being oppressed. As soon as a bunch of well-meaning adults provide them that target they are quite “happy” to take it and run it as far as it will go. Ultimately the adults will cajole, coopt, and pressure the kids into more-or-less conforming to their will; in doing so, of course, decency is preserved.

If the adults didn’t make any mention of it, and could manage to marshal their own libido sufficiently to see the kid and not the nubile voluptuosity who’s pierced midriff is so troublesome for its sensuality; when old farts and cronies can