Part 3: Extra Credit #1 – Everyday Boundary Setting™ Applied to School Dress Codes

The Everyday Boundary Setting™ is a tool for creating better understanding and application of boundary setting by both individuals and organizations. This section deconstructs it's elements in relation to the controversial problem of school dress code rules and enforcement.


Under-Enforcement Leads to Under-Respect. When school dress codes are not consistently enforced, students tend dress as they wish.


Students dress how they want without regard to the dress code.

Over-Enforcement creates a Backlash. When students perceive that school dress codes are overly restrictive and overly enforced students tend to rebel and protest against it.


Toronto student organizes ‘crop top day’ to protest school dress code

Just-Right Enforcement Creates Respect. When the students feel the dress code is fair and is appropriately enforced, the majority tends to conform.

Students adhering to the dress code.

Under-Communication Hinders Just-Right Enforcement. When the school’s dress code is Under-Communicated to students, it is difficult to enforce.  There will be misunderstandings. Students will commit violations unknowingly. Enforcement of violations will appear at times to be Under-Enforcement to some and to be Over-Enforcement to others. The result is that respect for the rules will not be created.

Over-Communication Creates Under-Respect from a Backlash. When students feel they are excessively told about the importance of the dress code, or that the dress code is necessary to not “distract other students”, some students will grow to resent it. These students will now have less respect for the dress code. They may feel the dress code is discriminatory or sexist.


Resentment against the dress code.

Over-Respect Creates Under-Respect. In the case of the dress code, Over-Respect means people/organizations who place a very high importance on having and following the dress code. These people/organizations tend to generate feelings of Under-Respect for themselves and the dress code from other people who don’t share the same belief in the value of the dress code.

An example of a student having less Respect for the school due to the dress code.

Under-Respect Leads to Violations. The natural result of a lack of Respect for the rules are violations of the rules. Under-Respect for the dress code leads to violations of the dress code.


The three photos above show a lack of Respect for the school dress code.

Just-Right Communication enables Just-Right Enforcement

Just-Right Enforcement creates Respect for the rules. But Just-Right Enforcement requires an effective level of Communication. The Communication cannot be Too Much or Too Little. The Communication is necessary so that

  1. All parties (students and administration) involved understand what constitutes the rules of behavior (the dress code).
  2. The parties must mostly agree on why the rules of behavior are required.
  3. All parties must mostly agree on what constitutes appropriate Enforcement of the rules.

If the students (many of them) do not agree on (2) and (3) above, respect for the rules will not be created by Enforcement. The result will be a lack of respect which will lead to continual violations.

Much of the difficultly in effective Communication comes from the students’ and administration’s different perceptions (Boundary Setting Paradigms™). These different perceptions are the natural result of each parties’ hardwired attributes, personal experience, upbringing, cultural norms, formal education and training.

Therefore, it is not enough to explain the existence of the rules (dress code). It is also important to explain the reason for the existence of the rules. These reasons must be shown to be valid to both parties. And they must take into consideration the different perceptions (viewpoints) of both the students and the administration.