So often, when children attempt to advocate for something they believe in at school, adults make the mistake of getting defensive and worse, stand by the mantra that “This is the way things are,” without ever examining why they are the way they are. Last spring, as the weather warmed in New Jersey, we announced and reposted our dress code. Rather than the usual murmurs and griping about fairness we often hear among middle-school adolescents, an interesting thing happened.

The morning after a Board of Education meeting, I was notified that something important had happened. A child unknown to me other than the timid smile she…



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