The Student Conduct Code

Did your school make you sign a conduct code?

My school mailed us a booklet about two weeks before ninth grade. I skimmed it; it wasn’t so bad as they go. Stuff about being modest in public and following the school dress code and doing our best to be an aidel maidel knaidel. It wasn’t like the school code for my Israeli nieces, which dictated the type of stockings my sister-in-law could wear, and the after-school activities they could take part in.

I thought that was a strictly Israeli mishegas, but turns out not. There are schools in Brooklyn that also (try to) dictate your entire out-of-school life.

Anyway, even though I didn’t think the code was untenable, I was too frum to promise anything I couldn’t guarantee. Or anything at all, even with a bli neder. So, during freshman orientation, when they handed us papers to sign saying we would follow the school code, I discreetly slipped my paper into the nearby wastepaper bin.

They made us re-sign at the beginning of every school year, and every year I didn’t sign. Nobody ever called me on it until 12th grade, when the secretary said, out of the blue, “You don’t have a signed school conduct code in your file.”

I shrugged and answered, “Yeah, I don’t sign it.”

She looked flabbergasted at my dismissive attitude, but nobody ever chased me down with a form to sign.

In retrospect, I wonder why they were going through my file. Maybe they put in a note saying “Persists in wearing a non-school sweatshirt despite repeated warnings.

Anyway, here’s a related story from Rachel:

Our school had a rulebook with invasive rules dictating that we would never watch any TV or any movies, and never wear short socks — things like that.
We were all supposed to sign the rulebook every year, renewing our pledge to follow school rules at home.
In tenth grade, a few of my classmates made a fuss about it. They said that signing the rulebook would be a false promise, or even a lie, because they were not yet on the madreiga to implement all these kabbalos into their lives. If they ever slipped and, say, wore short socks to the pool in the hotel on Pesach, they would be over on a d’oreisah. Or what if they watched a G-rated Disney film with some kids they were babysitting? Would that turn them into liars? Midvar sheker tirchak was another d’oreisah.
They were so persuasive that the mechaneches got involved, agitating on their side. In the end, the hanhala got together and agreed that they could add “bli neder” to the signature on the rulebook.
Of course, that solved everyone’s problems. Now, even those of us who wore short socks every Sunday  while watching Friends could do so without an ounce of guilt.
In t


The Student Conduct Code

4 thoughts on “The Student Conduct Code

  1. Dana Friedman says:

    Oh, Lordy. The uniform requirement included a “school sweatshirt”? Merchandise sales must have been down that year.


    1. Esther Bernstein says:

      School sweater was always part of the school dress code. The lines between requirements of uniform and requirements of tznius get blurred all too often.


  2. > There are schools in Brooklyn that also (try to) dictate your entire out-of-school life.

    A few years back, there was a yeshiva in Brooklyn that demanded parents install specific nanny software on their computers. The school already had a rule forbidding students from going online, so who could they be tracking but the parents?

    There was another school where the principal said explicitly in a speech during the dinner that the parents had handed over their kids to be raised properly by the school.

    To say nothing of chassidishe schools, which, IIUC, are the chief tool for enforcing conformity within those communities.


  3. If they told the kids they’d be ovair on a d’oraisa for wearing short socks, somebody needs to smack them around (figuratively, like “hakheh es shinav”), inform their highers-up, and tell every Rov who will listen (and those who won’t) that they shouldn’t recommend sending kids to Bais Yaakov because it teaches false Torah. Whether they do so out of ignorance or out of willful misrepresentation, they’re a school, not some schmoe blasting rhetoric to seem holier than everyone else..or just because he likes talking about girls’ feet.


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