Danville school board finds dress code proposal needs work

DANVILLE — They're staples in practically every kid's wardrobe.

But starting next year, Danville schools students wouldn't be allowed to wear jeans to school under a proposed "uniform standard of dress" policy.

School officials have been developing the proposal since late January, when board members opted to put a stricter dress code in place for all K-12 students — except for Northeast Elementary Magnet School students, who already wear uniforms — starting in the 2014-15 year.

While no one expects it to result in a dramatic increase in academic achievement, officials hope it will improve the learning environment, reduce classroom distractions, bridge socioeconomic differences between students and increase students' self-respect and self-esteem.

They also said that raising the standard of dress will allow students to focus on their academics rather than on peer pressure related to fads, improve school spirit and enhance the district's image within the community.

After several board members expressed concern over the proposal, including the no jeans rule, they agreed to discuss it in more depth and make revisions at their April 9 meeting, and then vote on a revised policy on April 23.

So what would be in under the current draft?

— Polos, dress shirts and turtlenecks in solid colors or stripes.

— Sweaters, sweater vests and sweatshirts, including school sweatshirts, as long as a collared shirt that meets dress-code requirements is worn underneath. Shirts with a small logo or a different color of trim would be okay.

— K-5 students would be allowed to wear school T-shirts.

— Khaki pants, shorts, skirts and skorts in solid navy, black, gray, brown and tan colors. Pants must be worn at the waist, and shorts, skirts and skorts must be no shorter than three inches above the knee.

— Dresses and jumpers that are no shorter than three inches above the knee.

— Shoes with a closed heel or back strap.

What would be out?

— Hoodies.

— Any tops that expose the midriff.

— Flannel, fleece, denim, leather, mesh, nylon, vinyl and spandex tops and bottoms.

— Sweatpants, leggings and jeggings.

— Bib overalls.

— Flip-flop sandals and house slippers.

Students and or athletic team members may be allowed to wear "appropriate" spirit wear on special days determined by the building principal.

Board members Bill Dobbles and Lon Henderson, both of who supported moving to a uniform standard of dress, criticized the proposal for being vague and confusing.

"Why do we have no jeans and yet we have shorts?" Dobbles, the board president, asked, adding he thought the intent was to prepare students for how to dress for work in a professional environment.

"You won't allow sweatpants, but you'll allow sweatshirts? It doesn't make any sense to me," he continued, adding the board shouldn't try to be "the fashion police."

Henderson said the proposal includes too many variables, which would make it more difficult for staff to enforce. He, along with Dobbles, said the board needs to think about the policy's intent.

"Isn't the idea for a kid to look good at school," said Henderson, who is in the schools on a regular basis and says most kids are following the current dress code. "It troubles me because I saw kids today in shirt and sweater combinations that looked great. Even though they're dressed to the hilt, it doesn't meet the code."

Board member Randal Ashton said he wouldn't support a proposal that doesn't represent students, who have expressed a desire to wear jeans. He said schools struggle to get students to attend school.

"And we're going to make it as uninviting to them as we can," he said.

Danville High students' reaction was mixed on the no jeans, sweats and T-shirt rules. After all, that's the current standard of dress for many students, freshman Elijah Staple said.

"I feel like changing our clothes won't change how we act at school," said junior Diamond Moss, who was wearing a pair of gray Aeropostle sweats on Monday.

"If we come to school feeling comfortable, we're going to be focused on school," continued Moss, an "A" and "B" student. "If you're wearing itchy khakis, you're going to be itching and scratching more than you're going to be paying attention to what you're supposed to be paying attention to."

But sophomore Josh Cassem said he wouldn't have a problem.

"I have plenty of slacks I can wear ... and I like dressing up," said Cassem, who said he wears both jeans and T-shirts and khakis and collared shirts to school.

Possible penalties for uniform violators

Proposed consequences for violating the uniform standard of dress policy:

All students would receive a warning on their first offense. After that, the consequence depends on their grade level.

Elementary school students would receive a phone call to a parent on the second offense, a parent conference on the second and third, a one-day suspension from school on the fifth and up to a three-day suspension on the sixth.

Middle school students would receive a parent conference on the second offense, an in-school suspension for the third and fourth, a one-day suspension on the fifth and up to a three-day suspension on the sixth.

High school students would receive a parent conference on the second offense, a Saturday detention on the third, an in-school suspension on the fourth and up to a three-day suspension on the fifth.

For all students, repeated violations would result in a three-day suspension.

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itazurakko wrote on March 13, 2014 at 11:03 am

I fail to see how such a wide dress code will do anything at all to prevent peer pressure related to fads (or teasing based on who has more expensive clothing, for that matter).  Blue pants vs. khaki? Stripes or not? Wal-Mart vs. Banana Republic?

If you want a school to have uniforms, make a true uniform, where all the kids wear identical clothing from the same store.  That is how schools with real uniforms around the world do it.

If you're already allowed to wear blue or brown pants in a wide variety of brand names, how on earth does banning jeans make things somehow less competitive? Or hoodies for that matter?  If the idea is to dress all the kids identically you can have a jeans and t-shirt uniform.  A zip-up plain color hoodie is a great jacket for fall and spring layering.  If the idea is to require "business casual" for whatever strange reason then just say so.

This really does seem like fashion policing and not much else to it.