Chelsea Horowitz, Ashley Imhof and Eliana Levin were sent home from Long Beach High School in Long Beach, New York. The school had a "Superhero" day during which it was understood that everyone would dress up as one of the popular culture characters from the comics and cartoons. Chelsea, Ashley and Eliana wore beige leotards and nude stockings under white briefs and red capes, in emulation of the superhero character Captain Underpants. Nicholas Restivo, LBHS Principal, did not think that this was appropriate, so he sent the three senior class members home to change into more appropriate apparel.
But the 26 October 2006 story in Newsday by Jennifer Sinco Kelleher, "Underpants under Fire," gives more info, much of it rather disturbing.
"Superhero Day is part of Long Beach High's Senior Week. Monday was Switch Day, where boys dressed like girls and vice versa. Tuesday was Nerd Day. Today is Spirit Day, where they wear school colors, blue and white. Tomorrow is Pirate Day. But the Captain Underpants getup didn't meet the approval of principal Restivo. He described the costume as 'tight-fitting, flesh-colored leotards and leggings.''Yes, I know they weren't naked,' he said. 'But the appearance was that they were naked.'The outfits looked so much like nude skin that they caused a commotion among students, Restivo said. The girls and their parents all said otherwise. 'They're not see-through or anything,' Horowitz said. 'All the teachers thought it was cute.'"
So let me get this straight: The students at Long Beach High School concocted a "Senior Week" at school, said "Senior Week entailing, seriatim, a day when the girls and boys cross-dress like the opposite gender ("Switch Day"); a "Nerd Day" when the students presumably dress as stereotypical social misfits; and then a "Superhero Day" when the students dress as heroic cartoon characters. Nicholas Restivo, the Principal of Long Beach High School, has apparently humored his students by allowing Senior Week. And now, after three female students dress in costumes consisting of "tight-fitting, flesh-colored leotards and leggings," Mr. Restivo becomes exercised over the lack of propriety and order in his school! Just what did he expect?!?!?
The scenario begs several questions. For one thing, how can the school administration expect order and propriety if it gives its imprimatur to activities which have great inherent potential to be disorderly and improper? Cross-dressing, for example, is practically guaranteed to bring about chaos and a disintegration of law and order.
Secondly, if this is what Mr. Restivo allows in October, near the beginning of the school year, then what do they expect in May or June when laxity tends to run rampant among high school seniors who generally have been accepted into college or otherwise made life arrangements for post-graduation? When I was in high school, there were various activities undertaken for the purpose of enabling the seniors to strut their stuff. Events such as the Senior Prom (which I did not attend) and Senior Cut Day (I went to school that Friday, and then cut school the next Monday, when the school administrators were too preoccupied with imposing disciplinary action upon the seniors who cut school the previous Friday to impose disciplinary consequences on me).
And thirdly, just who IS in charge at Long Beach High School? Does Mr. Restivo's idea of school administration entail giving in to the whims of his students so that he can continue to enjoy being in their good graces? Is this a style of leadership, or is it just capitulatory followership?
High school students have long tested the limits of what school administrators will tolerate (I speak from personal experience here). They crave guidance and direction, need their elders in the school administrative offices to set limits for them, and, in the end, will ultimately respect those school officials who stand by their guns and keep an orderly regime.