In Lakewood, Ohio, Stephanie Milligan, a 16 year old high school student, fell down a flight of stairs and hurt her back. She wanted to get back to school after Thanksgiving break, but the principal wouldn’t let her. He wouldn’t let her because she needs to wear loose clothing — sweat pants, in particular — because of her back injury, but the school’s dress code bans
Oversize, saggy, baggy or tight fitting clothing. Her doctor wrote her a note asking that she be allowed to wear sweatpants. That a recommendation from a licensed physician is necessary to be
allowed to wear sweatpants to school is obviously insane in and of itself, but the school’s principal, William Wagner, is both a medical expert and a scholar, and he
questions the severity of Stephanie’s injury and her need to wear sweatpants.
Armetta Landrum wrote about it for the Lakewood Patch (2010-12-20). Here’s the headline and subtitle for the story:
Student on the Hot Seat for Wearing Sweatpants to School
Sophomore at odds with school’s dress code, missed nine days of school.
Actually, it would be more accurate to say that the school’s dress code is at odds with the sophomore’s health.
Here is Lakewood High School Principal William Wagner’s explanation as to why not even a doctor’s request is a good enough reason to consider making an exception to his interpretation of his saggy/baggy dress code clause:
They don’t understand what the dress code is all about or how it is imposed.
Indeed. A doctor’s advice is, usually, about helping people, and he no doubt wrote his note on the common, but mistaken, assumption that school policies exist to help students learn. But that assumption is a complete misunderstanding: the dress code is not about helping students; it’s all about controlling students, and a reasonable exception is the last thing you want to make if your aim is to ensure that you, as the controlling authority, will continue to be able to keep young people in line with even the most insane and petty of requirements.
On a related note, Principal William Wagner is probably, like most high school administrators, a very stupid man, and intellectually negligent to the point of being functionally illiterate, especially when he is trying to defend his petty exercises of petty authority. I am fairly certain that what he meant to say is not that doctors
don’t understand … how [the dress code] is imposed (as if that were some sort of mystery) but rather that they don’t understand how it is construed, or perhaps that they don’t understand the reasons by which it is justified. However, I will say that he has unwittingly highlighted the real issue here: how this sort of idiocy is imposed on perfectly innocent young people and well-meaning doctors and parents, because bellowing blowhard bullies like Principal William Wagner are appointed by politico-bureaucratic means, are supported by a political structure that crowds out any viable alternative and so insulates them from either popular voice or individual exit, and thus gives them the authority to insist on even the most insane policies, in the interest of protecting their disciplinary turf from any possible encroachment — even encroachment by minimal concern for innocent students’ education, comfort or good health.
- GT 2008-12-08: On Blaming the Victim, Part II
- GT 2008-09-07: In fifteen words or fewer: On Blaming the Victim
- GT 2008-06-11: Beating up your teenage daughter isn’t just a good idea; it’s the law.
- GT 2008-05-19: Dr. Anarchy answers your mail #5: Wherever I go, he goes….
- GT 2008-03-01: Perpetual state of supervision
-  To be fair, the original purpose of the saggy/baggy dress code requirement itself was, no doubt, not to impose an insane and petty requirement on students, just for the sake of making them comply with insane and petty requirements. Like most such dress code clauses, the original purpose was no doubt to uphold institutional racism by selectively targeting
ghettostyles of dress. Sadistic authoritarianism is always spilling over its original boundaries, so in this case an idiotic policy written with the purpose of racist social regulation now is construed and applied in an especially rigid way, with no clear motive for the rigidity other than a general defense of turf and disciplinary command-and-control. ↩