Four colors make up base of Cape school dress code's first draft

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Orange or black. Or gray, or white. Those colors make up the basis of a uniform policy that may take effect at the beginning of the next school year for students in the Cape Girardeau School District.

A committee consisting of staff members from each of the district's buildings presented a first draft of a proposal to change the district's dress code during a special work session of the board Monday night.

The uniform dress code would require that students wear a polo or oxford short or long-sleeved shirt, tucked in, in orange, black, gray or white. Only the top button could be left unfastened. A vest, V-neck sweater, nonhooded sweatshirt, pullover or zippered jacket in one of those four colors could cover a polo or oxford shirt. Only the logo of the school district could appear on clothing. Flat-fronted or pleated trouser-style pants, shorts, skirts, jumpers and skorts within two inches of the knee and capri pants in khaki or black would be required. Leggings or tights could be worn under skirts, skorts or jumpers but would also need to be of an approved color. Belts could be solid brown or black or match the color of the shirt worn and would only be required of students in fifth grade and up. Other requirements would cover accessories.

Proponents of the change to the dress code policy say it would level the playing field for all students regardless of their family's income level, promote a professional atmosphere in Cape Girardeau schools and decrease discipline referrals.

School board members had many questions for the dress code committee, headed by Central Junior High School principal Carla Fee. Several other members of the committee were also present.

Board member Phil Moore asked if the committee looked at amending the current dress code so that it was consistent in all the district's buildings. Fee and superintendent Dr. Jim Welker said when the committee began meeting in early October that there was a lack of consistency between buildings.

"One of my concerns is we've had difficulty enforcing a very vague policy," Moore said.

Moore said another concern of his would be the feeling of children who are of a larger size that would be required to tuck in shirts and wear belts. That may make that child feel more self-conscious, Moore said.

"Even though you want to level the playing field, it could put other children in a situation that is unfair to them," he said.

Welker said, "The enforcement issue, in my opinion, is kind of a side note."

The fundamental issue, he said, is not necessarily enforcing the current dress code but changing the climate and the culture of the schools.

Fee said the results of recent parent and staff surveys in the district on dress codes show staff see problems parents don't when it comes to dealing with dress code violations and peer pressure.

Committee member Carolyn Thomas said her experience working in all the schools as a social worker for the past two years and being on the committee has changed her mind about uniform dress code policies.

"When I got on this committee, I would've been one of the first people to say no," she said. But she knows there is a great amount of class time taken away to deal with students who are not dressed appropriately, she said.

The committee's proposal includes an overview of comparison shopping by showing the cost of clothing that would be required by the uniform policy at area retailers and wholesalers and the cost of clothing that is trendy for school-age children.

Two public forums on the proposal will be held Jan. 9 and 17 at the junior high. The district has already sent the proposal to the Missouri School Boards' Association for review. Welker said a district policy committee would also likely review the proposal. After those reviews are complete, Welker said, he would like the dress code committee to look at all input and make a final recommendation to the school board in January.

eragan@semissourian.com

388-3627

Pertinent address:

301 N. Clark Ave., Cape Girardeau, MO

Map of pertinent addresses

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