Monday, August 6, 2007

Making the grade with back-to-school wear

Alexandria High School students Caroline Clay and Collin Snider model appropriate attire for back to school. Photo: Trent Penny/The Anniston Star


A bone of contention between kids and parents since forever.

And if not forever, then at least since Cain slung his skin tunic over his right shoulder because Adam and Eve slung theirs over their left.

Tunics have been replaced by oversized shirts and shorts that hang below the underwear line. Hey, at least they’re wearing underwear. Then again, maybe we shouldn’t give anyone ideas.

Schools, however, are concerned with health, safety and a distraction-free environment. That means creating and enforcing some kind of school dress code.

A study cited in the April 2006, issue of the Journal of Family and Consumer Sciences, said that dress-code policies help teens feel more secure and help them learn “social competencies,” among other things.

The Calhoun County Board of Education approved revisions to its Grooming and Dress Code at the board’s June meeting. Anniston High School also has made a few changes; other schools remind parents and students that administrators make the final decision about what is appropriate.

With school beginning in just a few days, parents and students might want to save some hassle by double-checking the closet to be sure the wardrobe is appropriate.

“The biggest departure (from last year’s code) is sleeves. All shirts, tops and dresses must have sleeves. No tank tops are allowed,” said board attorney Robin Andrews.

That’s not a problem for Jamillah Thomas, 17, a senior at Ohatchee High School.

“If she wore them (tank tops) last year, she had another blouse over the top,” said Jamillah’s mother, Sharon Thomas.

Both Thomases were aware of the changes because, they said, the school sent a card out.

“It just looks like they tightened up some things that were already in place,” Jamillah said.

Andrews said some of the changes were suggested by teachers, others by principals.

“We’re always looking at policies over the course of the year,” Andrews said.

Schools notified parents about the changes through mailings sent home and through orientation meetings.

Gaynell Wright, whose grandson, Corey Burgess, 14, will be in seventh grade at Weaver High School, didn’t know about the dress-code changes. Neither did Renay Stamps, whose grandson, Chris Wilson, 13, will be in eighth grade at Weaver. Wilson favors wearing long shirts hanging down past his waist and worn over baggy shorts — neither of which is allowed in school.

Stamps wasn’t too concerned.

“He has plenty of appropriate clothes to wear,” she said.

Alexandria High School students Caroline Clay and Collin Snider model some of the "oh-so-wrongs" of dressing for school. Photo: Trent Penny/The Anniston Star

Wright, on the other hand, said clothes have been more of an issue.

“Last year he (Corey) wore some blue jeans with holes already in them because they came that way, but the school sent him home,” Wright said. “And he likes to wear his hat, which isn’t allowed.”

Wright said she had to leave work to pick Corey up from school then bring him back after he had changed into more acceptable clothes.

“Some of it’s all right, but some of it seems too much,” Wright said. “Maybe they have their reasons, though, like concealed weapons under long shirts.”

Enforcement becomes an issue for administrators, which is why some things in the dress code are not spelled out.

“Do you really want administrators walking around counting the number of earrings a student is wearing?” Andrews explained.

Jean Steed, secretary at Piedmont Middle School, said she sees about 10 students a year come to the office to call home.

“The biggest problem is the saggy pants issue,” Steed said.

There are consequences for repeated violations and for more serious issues like clothing with statements or illustrations that, among other things, are “sexually suggestive,” have “racist implications,” or those which “otherwise create a hostile or offensive learning environment.” Consequences in various school systems range from an unexcused absence to out-of-school suspension.

Elementary school administrators have a bit more flexibility. Calhoun County’s dress code says “age and size appropriateness may be considered when applying this policy to elementary schools in K-2.”

Teresa Johnson, principal of Pleasant Valley Elementary School in Jacksonville, said children that age often have growth spurts that make shorts that used to fit become a bit too small.

“We see it especially in the spring,” Johnson said. “Students come wearing shorts that were fine last fall, but aren’t now.”

Johnson said dress-code problems are rare at her school.

Yvonne Swift, one of two assistant principals at Jacksonville High School, said dress-code issues are not an ongoing problem there, either.

“When spring hits, the weather changes and it gets warmer, then the shorts come out,” Swift said.

Swift also said the overall cut of a blouse might be a problem. The arm holes, for example, might be too revealing.

The best advice? Parents should check their schools’ dress-code policies before school starts and then err on the side of caution.

Dress-code policy changes

This is not a comprehensive listing of school dress-code changes. Check with individual schools for specific changes.

Calhoun County Schools’ dress-code policy changes

The Grooming and Dress Code was revised by the board June 21. The revised policy will be in effect for the upcoming school year. The primary changes include:

• All shirts, tops and dresses must have sleeves. Cap sleeves are acceptable.
• Any shirt or top that extends below the base of the hipline or buttocks must be tucked in.
• Facial jewelry, including tongue jewelry, is prohibited. Pierced ears and earrings are permitted.
• Garments must be free of holes, rips, tears, frayed openings, or other threadbare appearance above the knee. Cut-off pants (unhemmed) are not permitted.

The complete dress code can be found on the Web site.

Anniston High School dress code policy changes

School secretary Teresa Taylor said in addition to the dress-code requirements from last year, these changes are in effect this year:

• No long shirts/tops.
• Shirts must be worn tucked in.
• Belts are required.
• Skirts must be no shorter than 2 inches above the knee.

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