Scott City committee brainstorms ideas for dress code

Friday, January 7, 2011

From hair dye to flip-flops, a Scott City School District committee discussed the school system's planned dress code from head to toe Thursday night.

More than 60 residents, including some 30 members of the 55-member Scott City Committee to Study Student Dress Codes, turned out for the brainstorming session that will eventually set the what-to-wear list for Scott City schools.

"This was not a debate, and we made it clear that this was not going to be a debate on the merits of the policy," said Beth Cox, committee co-chairwoman. "What we were looking for were ideas, ideas we felt we could present to the board."

The committee meets again at 3:30 p.m. Wednesday to take all of the ideas on appropriate dress and whittle them down to three recommendations to present at the next Scott City School Board meeting, slated for Jan. 19. The board is expected to take action on the committee's guidance.

Last month, following two and a half months of committee study, the board approved a standardized dress policy that eventually will spell out precisely what students can wear to school.

Proponents say school uniform policies and dress codes promote school safety, improve discipline and enhance the learning environment. Critics argue the educational benefits don't pan out. Missouri law says, "A public school district may require students to wear a school uniform or restrict student dress to a particular style in accordance with the law. The school district may determine the style and color of the school uniform."

Starting at the top of Thursday night's meeting, community members -- including teachers, administrators, students and parents -- discussed the merits of hair coloring. The idea is to prohibit unnaturally colored hair, anything that would be considered a distraction in the classroom.

The discussion turned to shirts, with talk of collared shirts, turtlenecks and mock turtlenecks, but the consensus seemed to be that shirts under the unified dress code must have sleeves. The topic of pants, including the necessity of tucking in shirts, drew much discussion. While many school districts with dress codes mandate students wear black, blue or khaki dress pants, there is a possibility the policy would continue to allow students to wear blue jeans.

"Some schools we looked at allow jeans, but no holes in them," Cox said.

One of the bigger concerns, Cox said, is that any dress code eliminate saggy, tight or revealing clothing.

Discussion moved into the appropriateness of athletic shorts and then into the possibility of banning flip-flops and high-heeled shoes over a certain height.

"We have concerns from not only faculty but from our school nurse," Cox said. "In almost every single one of the dress codes from other schools, they banned flip flops for safety reasons."

Cox said there is concern about how the dress code would deal with different body sizes, whether it would be too restrictive for some. The argument is that it can't be a one-size-fits-all policy.

One area the committee has been advised not to address is tattoos or facial piercings.

"School administrators discussed that with the legal teams and they have advised the district not to consider that at this time," Cox said. "They were looking at information they had from other states and said that could be problematic."

Cox said details on financial assistance to meet the clothing needs of low-income families will be worked out in the coming months. The costs of outfitting students has been one of the more significant concerns in ironing out the dress code.

Meanwhile, the board has moved up the timeline of implementing the policy from the beginning of 2012 to the beginning of the 2011-2012 school year in August.

"This is an opportunity to make a difference," Cox said of the dress code. "I think a lot people are trying to do that."

mkittle@semissourian.com

388-3627

Pertinent address:

3000 Main St., Scott City, MO

Map of pertinent addresses

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