Not in those shoes

Imagine you’re the Principal of a school with a uniform policy and a 14 year old girl turns up in shoes that don’t meet the standard. What would you do? Take a hardline approach or let it slide?

This is is the exact conundrum Riley Filmer, 14, presented McClelland College (in Frankston Victoria) with when she turned up in the wrong shoes this week. Hers are soft black leather lace up shoes, not the kind you can polish up and make shiny.

Her school decided to uphold the uniform policy. She was offered replacement shoes from lost property but refused so this was not a case of discrimination based on privilege. No, this was a question of whether or not a student should be able to wear shoes which very marginally contravene the dress code. Riley Filmer and her Mum didn’t blink and now the 14 year old is serving a school imposed suspension.

I loved wearing my school uniform. Maybe it had something to do with the fact that Mum freshly ironed my white shirt every morning and left it by the heater for me as I got out of the shower on a cold winters morning. All I had to do was make sure my shoes were shiny and master the Windsor knot. Small tasks but Dad believed they taught me good habits and discipline. I didn’t mind. I like rules. I’m an ‘Obliger’.

I’m borrowing that term from a Gretchen Rubin book I’m reading at the moment called Habits. She talks about different personality types. At either end of the spectrum are Obligers and Rebels. I’m an Obliger because I strive to meet others expectations without too much questioning. Rebels are a bit the opposite. They do things for their own reasons and question what they don’t agree with. Riley and her Mum are Rebels (in the most moderate form of course). They have no interest in following rules that don’t make sense to them.

The question is, how does a School accommodate these different personality types whilst enforcing a dress code?

Lucy Feagins from The Design Files attended the same private school that I did but resented the tie and blazer combo. ‘Don’t you think in 50 years time people will look back and laugh at the fact that students were dressed in exactly the same outfit at schools?’ she asked. I didn’t really have an answer. Through this prism you can sort of view schools as production lines churning out clones.

Ours was a school that also had a hardline approach to uniform standards. My brother received the Riley Filmer treatment one day and was sent home because his shoes weren’t suitably polished but Dad applauded the measure and used it as an opportunity to run a refresher course in the time honoured ‘spit and polish’ shoe cleaning discipline.

Riley’s mother is angry and she has practical grounds for protest. It’s pedantic and her daughter’s idiosyncratic shoes may very well make her walk to and from the bus stop everyday more comfortable but as anyone with a strict Dutch father like me knows, soft leather shoes can never ascend to the gold standard of being able to ‘see your face in them’ and no matter how hard Riley polishes, it’s a satisfaction she’s never going to know.

image courtesy of Herald Sun

Do you think school uniform policies are archaic or a good way to teach children discipline? Leave a comment below…



  1. Kate

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