Karen gets a quoter: When uniformity is compromised, then authority no longer holds

Kelli Davis, a student at Fleming Island High School in Green Cove Springs, Florida, wore a tuxedo for her high school yearbook picture. Sam Ward, the school’s principal, said it must be removed because Kelli was wearing boy’s clothes and was not following the rules on dress. The decision was debated at a school board meeting attended by about 200 people, at which 24 people spoke, the majority of whom supported Kelli. The school board took no action and so the picture will be pulled. Bruce Bickner, the school board attorney, said there was no written dress code for the pictures but principals had the “authority” to set standards.

Karen Gordon, no doubt a proud patriot, attending the board meeting, applauded Ward’s decision. Said Karen, “When uniformity is compromised, then authority no longer holds.”

This astute appraisal of the situation appears to belong all to Karen. She thought it up in her very little-bitty own, or her husband did, or her pastor did, or maybe Principal Ward said it at a PTA meeting and Karen was so impressed that the words were impressed upon her brain with the near vehemence of the ten commandments. I looked up “in Google “When uniformity is compromised, then authority no longer holds” and there were no returns. Karen, if she knew this, would be so proud she could about pop.

Back to the tuxedo for a minute. The argument couldn’t possibly be about a woman wearing trousers as I have never seen a class picture in which the whole person is pictured, instead it is usually a head and shoulders shot. Never mind that pants on females is the norm. Back in the late 60s pants on females were, yes, an issue in ass-backwards conservative America but I remember somewhere along 1969 girls being permitted to wear pants to school in most parts and then around 1972 jeans became acceptable. It’s true that at church services and rights of passage (weddings, funerals) dresses on women still tend to be the norm, a quirk that is attributed to etiquette, but defies rational explanation. Just like the gold standard is another culture quirk. And eating with forks or fingers.

Head and shoulders shot. You can’t see the pants, so the pants couldn’t be the problem. Is it the bow tie? Are bow ties overtly masculine? Have I missed some phallic symbolism in the bow tie that marks it as sacred to the male? Or maybe the school system doesn’t want to appear to be promoting a service industry career for women, tuxedo shirts and bow ties not uncommon as service uniforms in the restaurant or catering world?

Uniformity. Pants weren’t ever an issue, actually. Kelli showed up for her school photo and what happened was there were drapes for females to put over their bodices and tux tops for the guys to don. Kelli was uncomfortable with the drape baring her chest. She opted for the tux.

Kelli happens to be lesbian. Kelli’s mother says her lesbianism has nothing to do with the matter, that it’s a human rights issue. The papers beg to differ, lesbian being in most of the headlines. An article by Susan Clark Armstrong at altweeklies.com certainly suggests that lesbianism factored in principal’s decision, and that Kelli believes this was a factor.

Reason wasn’t a factor, that’s for sure.

Kelli is one of those problem students that cause headaches for school administrators every year. You know the type, the kind of person who feels compelled to try for a little self-expression and autonomy. There’s nothing that can throw a cog in the orderly wheels of a fine-tooled school system, the machine to seize up and start throwing gears, than a picture of a woman in a bow tie crossing the desk.

Truth is, Kelli’s lesbianism is a factor, but she would likely have had the same response in that school if she’d not been a lesbian. The problem in Sam Ward world is anyone, male or female, exercising a bit of brain matter and questioning our largely haphazard potluck culture table, what makes sense and what needs to go in the trash. Karen Gordon fully grasps the problem when she defends the principal’s position with her statement, “When uniformity is compromised, then authority no longer holds.” She knows that when individuals start thinking for themselves in school, there’s no telling what can happen.

You know Sam Ward and Karen Gordon. You remember them, don’t you? Sure you do. They’re the students whose only question was ever, “Will this be on the test?”

Meanwhile. It’s tough to concentrate when your seven-year-old is rolling the bathroom in wet toilet paper and painting vanilla yogurt on the bathroom mirror. But I try. Besides, he was kind enough to make a movie of it for posterity so I’m not missing anything. He and his dad were supposed to be playing Ultra Seven and King Joe. H.o.p. and I played Ultra Seven and King Joe last night for quite a while. This was after one of his questions on mortality, asking me if I was going to die when I got lines all around my eyes and was on a cane. He asked me what it was like when people die and asked me to act it out. I at first demurred then figured what the hell and did a good old drawn-out stage death. H.o.p. said I did a good job of dying. Then suddenly I was Ultra Seven and he was King Joe. When he was later doing his reading program, he’d had enough of one of the games at one point and moaned his hand was oh so tired from clicking the mouse (yeah, right, this is a kid who draws four hours a day and can play computer games for hours). I said hey I’m Ultra Seven trying to reach and attack you before you can get to the end of the game. He liked that. He liked it so much we played it over and over again. I’d start toward him, he’d yell freeze and I’d stay in that frozen position for a while and then he’d say I could go and so on and so forth. Thus does H.o.p. continue down the reading road in his own fashion. I laid down on the couch to rest my head this evening and when I came back in he had the reading program up and was doing the next episode.

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Juli Kearns

Juli Kearns is the author of Thunderbird and the Ball of Twine and Unending Wonders of a Subatomic World (or) In Search of the Great Penguin. She is also an artist/photographer, and the person behind the web alter of "Idyllopus Press".

3 thoughts on “Karen gets a quoter: When uniformity is compromised, then authority no longer holds”

  1. I thought along the same lines as you did. Blogged about it here:
    http://alessandrab.blogspot.com/2005/02/kelli-davis-tuxedo-in-yearbook-lesbian.html

    I also saw an article, the only one that wasn’t the same blurb all the papers printed, that said Kelli’s mother does not understand what Kelli is going through (her homosexuality), but she thinks she needs to be supportive. Here is where the pro-homo obsession could really hurt a kid. Clapping at everything your kid does is not support, it is ceasing to be a parent. Which doesn’t mean I’m advocating repression, but to simply help discern.

  2. Uhm, you completely missed my point here. You somehow took me as being pro the school administration on this. I was being sarcastic. I’m not thinking along the same lines as you at all. I had to deliberate a minute before I approved this comment because I wondered if you were trolling. Dunno. If not, you need to take a 101 in humor or I need to be a little less dry.

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