By David Howell
WATER VALLEY – After a push in the community last year to implement a school uniform policy failed, students’ attire is back in the limelight following a committee’s recommendation to strengthen the current dress code.
The recommendations came during Monday’s school board meeting with a presentation by seventh grade English teacher Thomas Harris, who served as the spokesperson for a dress code committee composed of faculty at the Water Valley School District.
Harris outlined the proposed changes, which aim to make the dress code more uniform and easier to enforce for all teachers. Problematic areas identified by the committee include ball caps, cleavage issues with female students, sagging pants, length of skirts and sweaters worn by female students, body piercings and holes in clothes. Harris also outline recommendations for tweaking the dress code for faculty members.
Student Dress Code Proposals
If the recommendations are adopted, hats will not be permitted inside or outside the schools unless they are part of an athletic uniform. Currently hats are allowed for students outside the school. This has become an issue, because students continue to wear them when they enter the school buildings.
A two-fold recommendation addressed the sagging problem for male students. No shirts are to be worn below the thigh and students will be required to have shirts tucked in with a belt.
For female students, the committee recommended that no cleavage should be visible.
“There is no reason that a 14, 15 or 16 year-old is wearing a shirt showing cleavage,” Harris said. The committee also recommended that skirts be required to be worn knee-length. The current dress code requires skirts be worn at finger-length, but Harris told board members this can be hard to enforce when a student is walking down the hall.
“Knee length is not much longer, but it is easier to spot,” Harris elaborated.
Addressing sweaters worn by female students, Harris said the committee recommended that if the sweater is going to be worn as one article of clothing, it needs to reach the knee. Otherwise, pants must be worn below the sweaters. Tights do not suffice as pants, according to the new recommendations.
For both male and female students, body piercings with the exception of the ears could be prohibited.
“Body piercings has not been an issue” according to Harris, but he told school board members that the committee felt that piercings should be restricted to ears. The committee also recommended that holes in clothes should not be allowed.
“Holes are worn as a fashion statement,” Harris said, which does not portray a good image for students.
“These rules, there is not much wiggle room, Harris said, which would eliminate the problem of how different teachers enforce the current dress code It won’t cost much, if any money, the most we are talking about maybe replacing a few pairs of clothes that are a little worn out, buying a belt, or replacing a few inappropriate shirts,” Harris explained.
School board members will make a final decision when they adopt the handbook for the 2009/2010 school year. If the revisions are adopted, parents will receive a letter from the school when final reports are sent home in May.
Harris said the first warning would be the actual handbook.
“They sign it and turn it back in, that is their warning,” Harris said.
Teacher Dress Code Proposals
Harris also recommended that teachers would be assigned at every door at the school during the first few months of the coming school year to provide enforcement for the changes.
The final component of the committee’s recommendations dealt with the teachers’ dress code.
“We defined what we think we should wear. What we felt like was professional dress,” Harris said.
Friday will remain casual day, but Monday through Thursday men should wear slacks and collar shirts. An exception would be allowing sweaters during cold days.
Similar recommendations were made for female teachers. Slacks or skirts and blouse, or a dress, Monday through Thursday.
Addressing footwear for female teachers,it needs to be comfortable, yet professional.
We thought that was a nice way of saying no flip-flops, no crocs,” Harris explained.
Also no wind suits or track suits would be permitted in the new recommendations for teacher’s attire, as well as no shorts, unless you are a coach or physical education teacher who need that for what they are doing during the day.
Harris also said there was no reason that faculty members should have clothes with holes in them.
Other business conducted at the meeting includes:
• School board members approved a request by football coach Brad Embry to purchase new football uniforms.
The current uniforms are four years old and visibly worn, Coach Embry explained. The replacement cost will be $8,500.
Embry outlined a plan to fund the purchase, which was three-fold. His first recommendation was to offer to sale the old jerseys to players. The second part of the payment plan was to launch a new fundraiser. The remainder would come from the program’s budget, with the booster club also kicking in if needed.
With the football uniforms next in line in the school’s rotation plan for purchasing uniforms, no board approval was necessary for the transaction according to Board President Ray Hawkins.
The board did vote 4 – 0 to allow Coach Embry to sell the old uniforms.
• Approved minutes from the previous meeting.
• Approved the claims.
• Entered executive session to address a student’s expulsion and a personnel issue.