Eyewitness to History: School Dress Code

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SCRANTON, LACKAWANNA COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) — The debate as schools reopen is mask or no mask. In non-COVID times, the debate often centered on school uniforms.

In this week’s Eyewitness to History photojournalist Joseph Butash has some opinions from both public and private schools. With a new school year upon us, Eyewitness News is taking a look at the dress code from 1963 and 1981.

Eyewitness News reported in September of 1963 that Scranton Superintendent Richard McNichols told teachers to crack down on students who didn’t obey the dress code. While there are no required uniforms, there are no jeans or sneakers visible in this 1963 back to school film footage.

Fast-forward to 1981, when the uniform was still standard at private schools like the former Bishop Hannan High School on Wyoming Avenue in the city. Former WDAU-TV reporter Sue Miller spoke with the principal and students about the dress code.

“I believe that it helps the students work well. They’re not concerned about clothing. They know each day what they are going to put on. And we don’t have any problem concerning bizarre type dress that sometimes can become a possibility with teenagers today,” Bishop Hannan High School Principal Sister Mary Roche said.

The students did not object.

“I’m just here for the education, mostly. I went for two years, seventh and eight grade. I wore suits, it doesn’t bother me at all really,” sophomore Rick Somers said.

“Because it’s better because if you had to wear something different every day you’d have to, it would be more expensive,” sophomore Eileen O’Hora said.

When asked by Miller: ‘Did you ever have a day where you just want to wear jeans or anything like that?’, O’Hora replied, “Yeah, because it gets kind of boring everybody wearing the same
thing all the time.”

Our news crew stopped at Scranton Central High School, where in 1981 the student handbook left the school attire up to the individual.

“We do put a responsibility on the students, however, to make sure that any dress be safe and not cause any hazardous, hazardous situation in the schools and that it be appropriate and not be disruptive to the educational process,” Scranton School Superintendent Dr. Peter Flynn said.

“But I think that you should, like, if you want to wear jeans or whatever, you should be able to make your own decision,” senior Gina Shuker said.

When asked by Miller if he ever dresses up, junior Tim Hopkins said “Yeah, once in a while. Like maybe on a Monday or Tuesday, something, never on a Friday.”

Miller then asked Hopkins about his shoes and if he wears “sneaks” all the time, Hopkins replied: “I don’t own a pair of shoes. I haven’t owned any shoes in about 10 years.”

While all schools today have some sort of dress code, many schools have also “adopted” some type of “required clothing.” Of course the arguments still go on between students and parents. The bigger concern is to require a mask.

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