Time for a look in the old mailbag.
I got a lot of responses to my column on the Clovis Unified School District’s sexist (yup, I said it again) dress code, which has different rules for boys and girls on things like hair length and earrings.
For background, William Pleasant, a senior at Buchanan High, was initially barred from registering for classes last fall because his hair was “too long,” according to Clovis’ standards.
The ACLU got involved and Clovis allowed Pleasant in but the board refused to amend the dress code to remove the gender-specific rules.
I said that’s sexist and will, eventually, get the district sued. (By the by, I loved the Buchanan students’ protest, boys donning dresses and girls dressing like boys.)
Then I related one of my own tangles with the Clovis dress code from my long ago days as a “Cougar” at Clovis High.
I thought of it as a fun column, you know, light and chuckley.
Then I opened my email.
“The Clovis unified dress code is not sexist! So tired of people like you stirring the pot! I for one like the dress code that is in place! Boys look like boys, and girls like girls!
“Kids today look like little thugs and prostitutes! If people don’t like the dress code, move from Clovis! Go to a Fresno school where there isn’t a code! I went to Clovis schools and didn’t mind the dress code. I turned out fine! I pay my taxes so my kids might have a quality education that they can receive from Clovis unified!
“People like you that yell unfair, racist, sexist, need to get a life! No one is putting a gun to your head and telling you where to go to school! If you don’t like it, MOVE!!” (I’m omitting names on some of these because, well, it’s my column and I get to do what I want.)
Where to begin?
First, thanks for proving my point.
Rules intended to fit someone’s arbitrary idea of “Boys look like boys, and girls like girls!” are sexist. And illegal.
As for “looking like thugs,” Clovis Unified’s dress code (unlike Fresno Unified’s, which does exist) expressly allows boys — just boys — to have shaved heads, which continues to be a very popular look for gang members throughout our prison system. Just sayin’.
“Lois, We moved away from the Fresno/Clovis area 28 years ago and don’t need to hear about their current problems. Clovis gets enough press with their sports teams, test scores, etc., so please, spare us the Clovis controversies. I’m sorry you have had past issues, but we really don’t care to read about them now that we are in Bakersfield. Slow news day??”
This actually hits one of my pet peeves, the snotty “slow news day?” rejoinder for anything the reader doesn’t like or agree with.
My other peeve, in case you want to annoy me, is “You just want to sell papers!” Well, yes, actually, I do want to sell papers. It’s how I make a living.
I did get some nice emails from people who shared their own dress code dramas.
“Loved your Clovis piece. Reminded me of my small Christian school in Ridgecrest and going to annual ‘conventions’ to compete in volleyball (wearing culottes of course), music, etc. I had a Victorian style blouse, collar at the throat, but lace on the chest bone area (girls couldn’t have necklines below two fingers under the clavicle)...they made me put toilet paper under the lace or no participation. The following year, I boycotted, refused to go.”
I will tell you who this fellow rebel is because she said it was OK — Tracy Leach, local political consultant.
Wow, and I thought Clovis was behind the times.
That column also ran in the Fresno Bee, which prompted some emails from people I once knew.
“That was a beautiful piece of writing in Thursday’s Bee, you renegade, you. I remember a Lois Henry intern/reporter in Fresno, why did we let you get away?” from former Fresno Bee Managing Editor Don Slinkard.
Hmmm. Are they hiring?
And this from one of my Fresno State journalism professors, Greg Lewis, who I always thought found me lacking in the brains department.
“Great chuckle on your dress code piece. That explains a lot — you were a rascal before you got to Fresno State! Please extend my sympathies to your bosses. Don’t let up.”
Switching subjects, I got this on my column taking the Kern County Coroner’s office to task for withholding information on how former NFL player Lawrence Phillips killed himself while in prison, awaiting trial for murder.
“Who cares how Lawrence Phillips died, I mean really with all the stuff going on around the world today, you actually want to know whether he strangled himself or if he jumped off his top tier bunk and landed on his head?
“I don’t understand what the point of the article is, he’s dead and will never come back, how he died is really irrelevant now don’t cha think or are you looking for some smoke and mirrors cover-up.
“I think anytime somebody tells you the no you go into fight mode, and for the love of god if you believe in God why in the world did you go to a school you despise?
“Really a anti cougar shirt? I have a great idea whhhhhhyyyyyy not go to a different school!
“Your at the point were your (sic) just rambling now and it’s unfortunate that I have to read your stories.”
He continued on for several more paragraphs about my stand on fireworks.
Sheesh, talk about rambling.
And finally, this wasn’t an email but a phone call from a lady who felt my stance on Phillips’ death was insensitive to his family.
She went on at some length about his suicide being a family matter and I didn’t have a right to pry, etc. She asked why I thought that information should be public.
I tried to answer but she kept talking over me until I got short with her, at which point she told me, “You’re so rude. No wonder no one likes what you write in your column!”
I noted that she was under no obligation to read my column, to which she said: “You’re No. 1 on my prayer list tonight to put a little warmth in your heart!”
Gotta have one first.