More on the Role of Local Clergy

A little over a year ago we discussed clergy access to HPISD students. I said it then and I’ll say it now, I like it. To a certain extent.  But have we jumped the shark?

This e-mail went out to a group of 7th/8th grade girls from a local church youth leader. While I agree with the theme of dressing appropriately, I have an uneasy feeling about a few items. Let me start with the mention of school. If my kid passes Bohac and every teacher from 1st-4th period but a minister shows up at lunch and tells her she’s dressed inappropriately- big problem. And if we’re discussing appropriate, how about this line, “when we’re sitting around and I can see your boobs hanging out of your top.” Maybe we could polish that part a little?

Hello beautiful girls,

Growing up, whenever my parents needed to talk to us about something, we would have family meetings. It didn’t mean we were in trouble, but it did mean that there was something serious to talk about. This email is my version of a family meeting.
Lately in Sunday School and in small groups (and sometimes even just at your schools), I have noticed a trend in your clothes. Skirts and dresses are shorter and tighter and tops are lower and looser, and I have seen underwear, bras and skin that I just don’t need or want to see. 
Here’s the thing. I’m a grown woman. I love looking pretty and dressing in style, as I’m sure you’ve noticed. I love seeing you girls dress cute and enjoy what you wear. But, when we’re sitting around and I can see your boobs hanging out of your top, or your underwear when you sit down, or your bra is showing, it’s distracting – and not in a good way. I’d much rather be noticing how beautiful you are than how shocked I am at how little you are wearing (and I’d venture to say that most boys would too). It isn’t attractive. It just makes other people uncomfortable.
I am sorry if this email comes across harsh, but this is one of those things that has to be confronted seriously. We aren’t going to be enforcing any sort of dress code like at school, but I am going to start saying something if I think what you’re wearing is inappropriate. And let’s just face it, that’s embarrassing for both you and me.
I love you all, and I think you’re all beautiful. Hope you know that.
Much love,
[Name]

40 thoughts on “More on the Role of Local Clergy

  • March 21, 2011 at 2:08 pm
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    No problem with the notes content, just believe that it should be directed to the girls parents, not directly to the children. Forget about Bohac differing from the youth leader, I’d be more worried about the parents differing from the youth leader.

    Not that I trust all of the parents decision on appropriate dress, but that’s another issue.

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  • March 21, 2011 at 2:45 pm
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    I agree with (NAME)at least it was a female preacher, I’m sure if it were a male your head would have exploded. Maybe where you grew up girls dressed like hookers, albeit dressed in prada, vera wang etc. Expensive doesn’t make it appropriate. I don’t want to see a grade schooler girl’s bottom or their cleavage. IJS

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  • March 21, 2011 at 3:13 pm
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    I too do not have a problem with the content of the letter.. I would love to know if it was a mass email or to a few select in this persons group. Hopefully she has the relationship to speak to these girls.

    I was at the school today (MIS) and walked into the lunch room. Not everyone is appropriately dressed at school. A lot of the girls are pushing the limits. I saw really short shorts and bras everywhere. When these girls sit down or bend over there may be more exposed.

    Fashion is fun and these “looks” can be done well without exposing body parts. I remember when “leaving something to the imagination” was intriguing.

    We occasionally ask our girls “When you got dressed today did you dress so someone would notice your face or your body?” It always makes them think – and sometimes change their outfit.

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  • March 21, 2011 at 4:06 pm
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    Last year – there was a dad of one of the 5th grade girls who came to eat lunch one day with her. She had singled out my son as someone needing to “be saved.” During this lunch – this dad – basically quizzed my son about his religious beliefs, our practices at home, our attendance at church. This was done in front of other children. We are faithful in our religion (Presbyterian), actively involved – but even if we weren’t – this was entirely inappropriate behavior and absolutely none of his business.

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  • March 21, 2011 at 4:10 pm
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    I agree with what this woman says in this e-mail.  I’ve been shocked by some of the outfits I’ve seen at HPMS.  And this seems an
    appropriate message from a church leader to members of her own “flock.”  (I’m assuming that this was sent to only her own youth-group
    members.)  I still think it’s a bit creepy and questionable the way the clergy at HPISD appear to have more access (at least in practice) to the Intermediate and Middle School kids during the school day than the parents.  But that’s a different topic.

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  • March 21, 2011 at 4:45 pm
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    Would like to know which church the youth leader is from.

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  • March 21, 2011 at 4:52 pm
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    Two truths:

    1. Inappropriate clothing has no place in school.

    2. Religious indoctrination has no place in school.

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  • March 21, 2011 at 5:25 pm
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    Re: clergy access to HPISD students. I do not like it. But at least the clergy have been instructed not to proselytize, unlike the dad UPMomofboys describes.

    I am all for this letter. As long as this youth leader wasn’t sending her letter to girls who aren’t part of her church group, more power to her. If a girl or her parents disagrees with the letter, tell her, discuss it, ignore it, or complain to or leave the church.

    Too many girls are not taken seriously because they show too much skin. The girls need to know that is what they are doing. Then they can make an informed choice.

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  • March 21, 2011 at 5:30 pm
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    I think this is good. I think church attendance on Sundays and moral behavior (including modest dress) during the week are sometimes viewed as mutually exclusive in this community. To me, that is sickening and disheartening. Can the same preacher send out another email about drunken debauchery over spring break?

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  • March 21, 2011 at 6:49 pm
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    She is right i think. Girls have been know to
    leave the house looking apropriate but then
    change into inappropriat clothing once at school.
    Girls are more clever than we let on. They may not
    know they look trampy and need someone to tell
    them wich (name) did a good job of , very brave.

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  • March 21, 2011 at 7:31 pm
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    The email went to high school girls in the youth group, too, if that matters to anyone. Take a breath — these girls need to be told this and how great to hear it from someone they look up to and respect. They will “hear” it much louder than from their parents. That’s a fact. And, no, I don’t find the line about boobs inappropriate — she’s just speaking the kids’ language — not the parents’.

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  • March 21, 2011 at 8:53 pm
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    How Timely. I worked my “snowday” shift at cafeteria today, and my coworkers and I were almost falling over with the super short shorts (one pair even could be unzipped up the sides to the waist… hmmm) and loose sheer tops with bra straps showing. One cute girl with a black sheer top showing her cropped black undershirt – belly very visible.
    After lunch we approached Mr. Bohac to question why in the heck he didn’t enforce the dress code, and he promised he’d address it. Said post spring break is always a problem.

    Let’s hope the parents who are buying these clothes get it. This minister is very brave and bold and I am really proud of her.

    The boys look great – Khaki shorts, tee shirts …

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  • March 21, 2011 at 10:50 pm
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    I hope I don’t get killed for jumping in on this. My name is Lars Rood and I’m the youth pastor at Highland Park Presbyterian Church. This discussion is important to me as I believe my role and my teams role is to come alongside of parents as they raise their kids. This email didn’t come from us and I generally think email is a  pretty horrible way to address issues.  I agree with those of you who don’t want people coming on campus to “preach at” your kids.  We don’t do that. We are very careful I think to “love” the kids we know and “meet” their friends but don’t attempt to do more. This is a great community and we love our freedom to be at the school but we try to be careful. I fully agree that the original email should have been aimed at parents and helping them to see that view. Again it wasn’t my churches email and I would caution anyone on my team to use that medium to teach anything.  Parents who read this we just want to partner with you and use whatever skills/gifts we have to help. 

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  • March 22, 2011 at 6:34 am
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    I disagree w/ Lars on this one. I am an hppc mom who thinks the email was absolutely appropriate. As a girl mom, i feel certain that the message will be far better received by the girls when it comes directly from their youth minister/ advisor/ friend than from an email that filters thru their parents. And an email to a group is less threatening and embarrassing to any one girl who feels singled out by the description of inappropriate clothes…

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  • March 22, 2011 at 9:37 am
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    I, too, am an HPPC mom and I agree that I think it speaks way more to the kids to come from the youth minister/leader etc than from the parents who sometimes get tuned out. On a different note, the boys in our youth group were earlier this year overheard mocking girls and making some slightly chauvinistic jokes (as one can imagine middle school boys might do) and our youth group leader stopped all he was doing to have a discussion with the entire group of boys on the issue of respect for women. I know that it spoke much more to my son than anything I could have said to him. I so appreciated it.

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  • March 22, 2011 at 10:21 am
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    You all make good points and, as I said, I agree with the general theme. I’m torn on this one because I believe that generally parents approve outfits (with the exception of a sneaky girl who changes after she leaves the house) and boundaries concerning dress should be up to a parent, not the church. If the minister has a hunch that one of the girls has been doing a wardrobe change after leaving home, she should discuss this with the parents. I would hate to think that a youth leader would correct a child’s clothing choices if she believes the parents approved, whether the outfit is appropriate or not.

    I think the intentions were good but the idea that a minister would “override” the judgment of a parent crosses a line.

    Concerning the wording of the e-mail, though it might be typical for junior high girls to say “boobs hanging out” it’s not ideal for that to be the example from grown-ups they are encouraged to follow. Another way to say it could have been, “Look I don’t want to see everyone hanging out of their clothing…” or something along those lines. It’s still casual but more of an example.

    All of that said, I like this church staffer and hope her positive influence will continue to impact these young girls in a way that is consistent with the parents.

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  • March 22, 2011 at 11:18 am
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    If the youth minister called my daughter out for her clothing, I would reconsider my decision that the clothing was appropriate, at least for a church group. I might or might not change my mind but I would think about it.
    Sort of like being told at church that Harry Potter is a bad book. If you disagree you let your kid read it, but maybe she doesn’t take it with her to church activities.

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  • March 22, 2011 at 11:50 am
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    Maybe I strayed from the point, but do we have a dress code at school or not? It should be very clear. Parents dont get to “gray” this area.

    Back to the original email discussing what girls are wearing Sunday mornings – part of that comes from the contemporary shift in worship. the “whatever” attitude towards clothing. Head down to Bishop TD Jakes any sunday, and see how to really dress! Or even visit your own sanctuary for a change. Covering up and dressing up for church used to mean something. Now everyone is untucked and disheveled – can you blame the girls for slacking off?

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  • March 22, 2011 at 1:01 pm
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    I’m torn on this since I do not believe any clergy should be visiting in a public school. On the other hand, I agree with the woman’s point of view. The girls at the middle school are looking, well, cheaper and cheaper. The latest look (I won’t let my kid wear) is this shirt-falling-off-the-shoulder-exposing-the-bra/skimpy strappy-top-underneath look. So maybe it’s good that somebody’s addressing this, if not the parents or school.

    LARS ROOD: Thank you for identifying yourself. Over a month ago, my husband was walking our dog at night. He came upon two 13-14 year old boys smoking a bong in the alley between University and Glenwick. He asked them where they lived and they replied, “Uh, we just came over from the church.” After telling them to “stop being so stupid,” he let them go. I’m pretty sure this was a thursday night, but it might have been friday. I just thought you might like to know about it, and try to prevent/address the issue. I’m sure their parents would be horrified to know they left the HPPC campus to go smoke pot in the alley.

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  • March 22, 2011 at 1:34 pm
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    Non-Issue. Thanks for the heads up church person. Next.

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  • March 22, 2011 at 2:14 pm
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    Just because a person is capable of precreation doesn’t mean they practice or teach good choices. We all can think of examples of poor parenting. Chances are, you know a PC mom or 2 that routinely could not pass the middle school dress code.

    When our kids won’t listen to us, I’m thankful for the positive influences offered by other caring adults. This might just be the message that gets through. Instead of “fuddy duddy mom” saying the clothes are too skimpy, it’s “cool hip youth leader”. I appreciate the help.

    A friend of mine helped with this years 8th grade career day. The kids were told to dress nicely, as if looking for a job. My friend, and several of the presenters, were shocked by what some of the girls wore. Apparently, by their dress, they are setting their sights on the world’s oldest profession. What are the parents thinking letting their 13-14 year old girls dress like that?

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  • March 22, 2011 at 4:42 pm
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    Wow, @GMOM did it again, “Maybe where you grew up girls dressed like hookers”. That’s really nasty, rude behavior, the kind of behavior that gives the Park Cities a bad reputation. @GMOM, why don’t you just spell out your beef with Merritt and get it over with, quit with these jabs that fit so many peoples stereotype of rotten, snobby Park Cities attitude. Or do you actually hate everyone that wasn’t born within the borders of HP or UP?

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  • March 22, 2011 at 5:05 pm
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    I agree with Merritt about the “boob” verbiage being a bit inappropriate, although I think the youth leader was probably trying to speak to her teen/tween group in their language. Interesting how this subject has struck a nerve in our community…it’s an occasional issue at our house as well (usually involving too-short shorts). I feel pretty comfortable telling my kid flat out that she can’t wear something and if she asks me why, I tell her flat out that I think it looks cheap/inappropriate. That being said, Cafeteriamom has a good point about casual worship attire at contemporary services. While the casual trend has made me a MUCH more regular churchgoer, I admit to wearing jeans more often than not, which has influenced my child’s attire, I’m sure. The whole tank top plus bra strap thing has me stymied as well. I think it’s trashy-looking, but there are tons of sweet, well-bred young ladies sporting it at HPMS every day, so who am I to judge?

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  • March 22, 2011 at 5:32 pm
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    I think the letter was right on and I would be perfectly fine if my daughter received it from her church/youth group leader.

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  • March 22, 2011 at 5:41 pm
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    @cafeteriamom. You are right. Our schools have a dress code. It needs to be enforced. Shouldn’t all fall on Bohac. Some of the teachers would be willing to cite infractions too.

    Maybe the problem is the consequences are probably only inconvenience: cover up with a sweater or Tshirt, at worst call for a ride to go home and change. Do they ever punish with after school or cafeteria detentions, or negative attention, for violations?

    Maybe the middle school should have choir robes or burqa-inspired coverups that kids who violate the dress code have to wear over their clothes for the rest of the day. Allow for one warning per kid. No going home to change.

    Gee, I feel old and mean.

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  • March 22, 2011 at 9:04 pm
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    @Laura,

    Thanks for the link, I read that in the WSJ a few days ago and thought about it reading this post.

    Methinks the problem is at home, and parents trying to be friends rather than parents.

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  • March 23, 2011 at 9:51 am
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    I am encouraged that the pastor stepped up. The letter is entirely appropriate for high school students, maybe a little less for middle schoolers, although it’s a message they need to hear.
    Our rabbi gave our daughter clear instructions about wearing an appropriate dress and low-heeled shoes at her bat mitzvah. The mostly Highland Park crowd of girls who attended also were dressed nicely and behaved beautifully. Not all girls dress provocatively.

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  • March 23, 2011 at 1:02 pm
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    Merritt got a few things wrong. This DID go out to the parents along with youth, the youth leader is not clergy, and it went out to 7th-12th graders. I think if people are going to blog they have a responsibility to get the facts right.

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  • March 23, 2011 at 1:57 pm
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    @hojo. Merritt was discussing whether it should have been sent to 7th/8th girls. She didn’t say parents weren’t cc’ed on it. She does suggest in a comment that the youth group leader is clergy, so your point is valid. But the leader does represent the church in that role, so I’d treat it like a church communication.

    Most commenters here support the youth leader’s position. Is she upset with Merritt for publishing her letter?

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  • March 23, 2011 at 6:04 pm
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    @HOJO: Like DemBones, I’ve got to defend Merritt here – I don’t see any wrong “facts” in Merritt’s original post. I’ve seen the original email – it comes from a paid church staff member with the word “minister” in her title. Merritt called her a “staff member” and a “minister,” which are correct. Further, this fits at least the broader dictionary definition of “clergy” – unless we want to get into a debate about apostolic succession.

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  • March 23, 2011 at 9:48 pm
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    I think it is great that the email was sent to the girls in such an affirming way. it is so true that girls do not have to reveal skin to be considered beautiful. They need to know that! They are bombarded with the opposite message CONSTANTLY in all forms of media. Parents, that I know, are constnatly trying to get that message across, but it is so hard to fight the media stereotype. I am so thankful that there is a voice speaking up that that our teens can hear that says that there is a choice that is appropriate that is different from what they see at the mall or on TV.
    Thank you church youth leaders for making a good point!

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  • March 24, 2011 at 6:28 am
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    I believe we should have three things in HPISD:

    1. Optional school uniforms. Let the parents decide which to wear. The kids would get used to it (just like some wear cheerleading uniforms).
    2. School vouchers for everyone. Yea, HPISD is a great school district, but if I want to send my kid to a school where religion is emphasized as a core value, then I (& everyone else) should have that option without the government intervening in my choice and I being forced to pay for two schools (private & public) at once.
    3. Religion classes: I believe teaching the kids about ALL religions would help them to better understand each other and respect each other’s constitutional rights.

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  • March 24, 2011 at 6:29 am
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    Correction: “me being forced to pay for two schools (private & public) at once.” Sorry……..

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  • March 24, 2011 at 7:43 am
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    Loook the way the moms are dressed, all you need to know.

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  • March 29, 2011 at 1:21 pm
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    I was hoping that Merritt would clarify a couple of her comments from her original blog, but it appears that is not going to happen. Maybe nobody cares at this point, but there are a couple of facts not mentioned by Merritt that deserve to at least be stated for the benefit of the church youth leadership brought into this discussion:

    1. The email in question was sent out by a youth leader of a local church to the girls and parents of that church’s youth group ONLY. No kids or parents outside of that church youth group received the email.

    2. While at any HPISD school, the youth leader in question has never addressed attire with any student. In the EMAIL, the youth leader observes the progression of attire that the girls have begun wearing to church functions/activities (i.e. Sunday School and small group sessions during the week), with a passing comment about school, and expresses legitimate concern about that attire.

    For whatever it’s worth, several folks from the church involved (myself included) feel that the above facts are important to the tangents that have been expressed, instead of leaving these facts out of the discussion.

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  • March 29, 2011 at 1:58 pm
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    @Clif, I wasn’t sure about what the author meant re: did she spoke to the girls at school about their dress while she was actually at the school or was she just making a general observation, so others may also be confused on that point.

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  • March 29, 2011 at 4:40 pm
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    mk,
    The school comment was only made in the email as a side observation. She never addressed any girl about their attire while physically present at the school.

    Your confusion is exactly why I made my post. Though I hate using the phrase, this whole topic was taken “out-of-context”, leading to assumptions and insinuations that are not true.

    Simply put, this was a church email, sent to an affiliated church group, addressing what girls had been wearing to church.

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