Like school boards all across the country, the Rye City School Board has been reconsidering its dress code.
By Peter Jovanovich
Like school boards all across the country, the Rye City School Board has been reconsidering its dress code. Evidently, it has been an issue of concern: over 600 Rye parents signed a petition urging the District to be less prescriptive in its application of the dress code, and some parents and students felt that existing policy was unfairly directed against girls for the reason sometimes given by administrators that girls’ attire can “distract the boys.”
The Board directed the Policy Committee, chaired by board member Karen Belanger, to come up with a new dress code; and the draft language was discussed, with input from students and parents, over several meetings. At the November 10 meeting, a final draft was adopted unanimously.
What’s different about the new code?
First, it employs a common sense approach that “requires students to attend school in appropriate dress. Students and parents have the primary responsibility for acceptable student dress and appearance.”
What’s appropriate? In the words of Belanger: “Our students need to realize that they are dressing for an academic setting – their version of work. They aren’t dressing for the beach or a social gathering: it’s school.”
Some level of specificity persists in the new code. Students can’t wear items that are “vulgar or obscene or that denigrate others,” and “see-through or otherwise revealing garments are not appropriate. Undergarments should be covered with outer clothing.” Evidently, boys’ wearing jeans around their knees is still out.
An important change is the centralization of enforcement of the dress code. According to the new language: “The Building Principal or his/her designee shall have the authority to require a student to change his/her attire should it be deemed inappropriate . . .”
For school boards, dealing with this issue is the educational equivalent of drawing the “short straw.” Every student, parent, teacher, and administrator has an opinion, and consensus can be very hard to come by. For example, the Board discussed hats – brimmed, porkpie, and floppy – at great length. One Board member’s own daughter rose to speak in favor of the wearing of hats in the halls and classrooms, because it enables her to “express her identity.” Other Board members pointed out that teachers often object to hat wearing in class because it can prevent eye contact between teacher and student. The final result: A student can wear a hat in the hallway but it’s “hats off in the classroom.”
The new code is posted on the District’s website, under Policies/Students Series 5311.5.