Principal Condon’s statement to The Classic regarding new dress code enforcement process

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The Editors of The Classic have reached out to me to answer a few questions in reference to the dress code at Townsend Harris High School. Instead of answering each question in isolation, I have chosen to provide an extended response within which the answers to their questions are clear and in a larger context.  I appreciate The Classic’s participation in the on-going dialogue concerning this important issue. The three questions are:

  1. What changes were made to procedures for enforcing the school dress code?
  2. What prompted this change in school policy?

  3. When will this change go into effect, and when will the student body be notified?

First, let me begin by stating, Townsend Harris High School has a dress code and students are expected to continue to abide by that code.  In October, the Consultative Council began a conversation with the school administration to amend the dress code.  The participants in that conversation now include parents and other community members through our SLT.  We will carefully work through the many viewpoints on this issue and consider the consequences, intended and unintended of changing the dress code. I know the dress code is important to the students at Townsend Harris and I intend to resolve this issue through a thoughtful and collaborative process that acknowledges and honors the viewpoints of the many constituencies within our school community. This will be neither a quick nor easy process.

Second, the dress code does not exist in a vacuum: It is a component part of the culture at Townsend Harris High School.  It interacts with many other codes, norms of behavior, habits of mind, and traditions that make Townsend Harris the place that students like you have chosen to have their high school experience.  In isolation, a single policy, code, or tradition may seem antiquated and awaiting immediate reversal or complete abandonment but, it is how these component parts interact with each other that create the unique culture we have at Townsend Harris.  We are in fact involved in several other related discussions that are connected to the dress code including a review of the code of conduct and the demerit system.  We are also looking carefully at where guidance and discipline intersect and diverge from one another and how best to support students as they develop during their time at Townsend Harris.

That being said, I have asked adults in our school community to refrain from addressing students directly regarding perceived violations of the dress code.  Instead, I have requested that adults who are concerned that a student is violating the dress code inform the Guidance Department. The Guidance Department will provide supports and interventions to help understand and guide students in their decision-making processes regarding their choice of attire.  If a student’s attire is clearly disruptive to the learning environment at Townsend Harris High School it will ultimately reside with me, the principal, to make any final assessment as stated in Chancellor’s Regulations.  I do not believe this will be the case.  Instead, I believe that you, the students of our community, will use the same thoughtful decision-making processes you do in so many other areas of your life.  As I trust you with so many other things, I trust you with this.

Brian Condon, Principal