One of the key petition themes in youth culture is that of "dress codes" applied by educational institutions. GoPetition has received literally hundreds of these campaigns in recent years. The main issue: should freedom of expression (to dress) trump educational ideals of uniform and dress "identity" which coincides with the values and ideals of the relevant educational institutions?
A recent case study from GoPetition highlights the issues: Kilt or No Kilt
A student in southwestern Alberta, Hamish Jacobs, wanted to honour his Scottish heritage at his Grade 12 graduation by wearing a kilt. Hamish asked the principal of his high school in Raymond, if he could wear the kilt under his grad gown while he walked across the stage to accept his diploma. But, the principal told him all boys are required to wear dress pants, dress shoes and a collared shirt when they accept their diploma.
The Westwinds School District said the dress-code policy is in place to prevent students from showing up in shorts or flip-flops. The district added there are provisions that allow students to express their individual style later in the evening during the Grand March and dinner party.
Hamish's uncle responded with pointed campaign at GoPetition: "We the undersigned petition the Westwind School Division of southern Alberta, Canada, to allow student Hamish Jacobs to respectfully wear a Forbes tartan kilt to his graduation ceremony."
To Hamish's joy, his uncle's campaign struck some very raw nerves. His uncle, David Forbes reports, "With the help of GoPetition, news media around the world, some high profile organizations, and Facebook, the public petition about my nephew wanting to wear a kilt to high school graduation has been a success. Kilt or no kilt? The school board today agreed that Hamish could wear a kilt. Thank you for your interest in this matter."
Forbes was dismayed at the original problem, "When I simply agreed to let him wear my kilt, never in a million years did I think it would create such a furore." But with the successful campaign concluded, he noted, "Thank you all, sincerely, for your comments and for showing that you care about something that need never have reached frantic proportions."
And so ends another chapter in this ongoing debate. To be sure, there are stong arguments for supporting school uniforms in an educational context. But these benefits need to be carefully weighed against the "freedom of expression" issues that are so important for youth to assimilate into their own lives before they graduate and enter a word which is far from "organised".
Petitions concerning dress codes will continue to be posted at GoPetition. Our goal at GoPetition is to facilitate the debate and help both individuals, parent groups and institutions deal with complex situations on a case by case basis.