The Things We Do For Shoes

An unidentified high school boy in Florida has been asked by his principal to not wear his signature high-heels to school.  According to the news report, this young man wears the shoes because they “make him feel more confident.” But when they caused a “classroom disturbance,” his principal asked him not to wear them…

“As a principal of a high school … I have to make sure he’s going to be okay,” Heilmann told Fox, adding he was worried the student would be subjected to bullying. “Anytime anyone goes out from, quote, ‘the norm,’ or anytime anyone wants to make a statement, you have to be willing to take what comes with it.”

Now. I’m one of the first people to complain that we’re throwing way too broad a net with the term, “bullying”.  What was once a tiff between kids is now considered bullying. What used to be called a ‘cut-down fight’ – with each kid trying to one-up the other with the insults – is now labeled bullying. Any time someone notices something different about someone else, and says it out loud, it’s called bullying. So kids are either getting busted left and right for “bullying”, or the schools throw up their hands completely, because they’re trying to micro-manage, and real bullying gets ignored.

So when I heard this principal’s point of view, I had to agree. Assuming (and I have not read any different anywhere) this kid has not been verbally or physically abused over his choice of footwear, he should be expected to stand up for himself when he wears them. They’re ‘weird’. They’re out of the norm. Just like the kid with the blue mohawk should expect strange looks, so should the boy in the red pumps.

But an article I read (an opinion piece) said that the principal was “caving to the bullies” by telling this guy that he needs to stand up for himself. Her point was that the kids should be tolerant of this young man’s choice, and nobody should say anything about it. And that the principal’s opinion was wrong.

So, what do you think? Assuming that the shoes didn’t violate school dress code (because that’s a whole other discussion), and assuming that there was no bullying, but that there were some comments here or there, should the principal have told the boy to leave the shoes at home if he wasn’t prepared to defend his choice? Or should the principal have come to his defense, and dealt with any other kids who were making remarks?

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5 Responses to The Things We Do For Shoes

  1. SKL says:

    I think I’m way behind the times when it comes to these things. I think the boy and his parents should have not tried this stunt in the first place – at least, not unless the kid was a popular trend-setter in the first place. My mom would call it “asking for trouble.” There’s a time and a place to “express your individuality” to that extent.

    So I have to fight my first reaction and say, OK, so the kid is wearing the shoes to school and his classmates are not impressed. The principal has the audacity to care and try to prevent a fight. (Because it is not at all unusual for boys to beat each other up for being “effeminate,” and if they can’t get away with it on school grounds, they’ll figure out some way to do it elsewhere.) The principal has probably seen lots of these types of fights over his lifetime and career, and he thinks, “I’ll be pro-active with this situation.” He suggests the kid not make choices to knowingly provoke strong feelings of intolerance and, frankly, insecurity – coupled with crowd hysteria. I think he did what he felt he had to do, despite the fact that it meant suppressing one child’s individual expression.

    What does the other option look like? A Mr. Rogers episode? Is the principal going to seriously go into each HS classroom and give a pleasant talk about how everyone likes different shoes and we mustn’t be intolerant about it? Remind them that fighting is against the school rules? Ask them to write an essay or draw a picture about sexual identity, diversity and tolerance? And then, let’s get real – none of that is going to really protect the kid.

    This reminds me of a book I read where an educator asked a middle-school class “do you love your teacher” and the kids’ response was, “where you from?!”

    I think we are asking too much of our educators these days, when it comes to managing behavior. Forcing them to allow all provocations, and expecting them to defuse them before any damage can be done. All the while ignoring their own feelings, whether it be “this child is intentionally provoking ME” or “this kid is never gonna get a job at this rate.” Things like this are gonna eventually push more schools toward stricter rules, including uniforms. Which I do not like, but it’s better than seeing this kind of nonsense taking up so much school time / resources.

  2. Joy says:

    My gut reaction is that I think he should be able to wear these if he wants to and has to deal with the consequences of that choice. He’ll probably get teased but that’s up to him to deal with as long as nobody “hurts” him in any physical way.

    I agree with you on the whole “bullying” thing. There is such a big difference in bullying and teasing. I almost think it’s like some of the discrimination laws such as sexual in the workplace where you smile at someone and they file charges against you. If someone is getting bullied then by God I’ll defend them but sometimes I do believe it’s kids teasing each other. Heck, I tease some of my friends too but most of the time it’s done in good humor.

  3. Michael says:

    If you want attention, there’s more than one way to go about it. Sigh.

  4. Ellen says:

    I think the principal did what he thought was right. I would think, if a boy wants to walk on high heels at school in the first place, he has enough confidence to deal with the “teasing/bullying. If you have a low self esteem, you will not dare to wear high heels to school being a boy.

  5. Nikki says:

    He’s old enough to know consequences to what he does, how he acts, and how he dresses. If he is confident enough to wear them, and they make him feel confident then he should take personal responsibility for how he may be looked at, and/or treated. I’m all for expressing yourself and having your own sense of style, but again he knows what that may cause…so as long as he isn’t being hurt, let it be. He’ll get a good dose of teasing and he should and probably does know this.

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