Dress code for students tightened School board votes 8-0 for new policy


The eight-member Anne Arundel County school board unanimously adopted last night a student dress policy that will take effect in August 1997.

It is the third get-tough measure concerning school discipline adopted by the board in two years.

The new dress code prohibits clothing and accessories that depict obscenities or violence, promote the use or abuse of drugs, alcohol and tobacco, or pose a health or safety risk or disrupt school. The measures will apply to all school events unless excused in advance by the principal.

Except with the principal's approval, bare feet are banned, head coverings -- except those for health, safety or religious reasons -- are prohibited, and clothes must cover a student from the upper chest to the mid-thigh.

The policy is expected to end the wearing of short-shorts, tiny miniskirts, low-hanging baggy pants, crop tops, halter tops and navel jewelry.

Repeated violations could be punishable by suspension.

In the past two years, the board has cracked down on students with several new policies. The code of conduct, adopted this year, includes a provision that allows suspension of a student who is referred to the principal's office three times in one semester. There is also a policy that requires expulsion for bringing weapons to school.

Board member Janet Bury said she voted for the dress policy despite her opposition to banning hats.

"I am a classroom teacher. I don't have any trouble seeing their faces," said Bury, who teaches at Morgan State University. "I think the whole hat thing is ludicrous."

Most schools already ban hats and hoods indoors.

Approval of the policy won applause from a large contingent of principals, but the policy was opposed by the Chesapeake Regional Association of Student Councils.

Sarah Zaleski, the association's president, said students thought it was vague and that corrective actions could be more disruptive than problem clothing.

"They also wondered about proms and other formals," she said.

Many formal dresses are backless, strapless or have long slits in the skirt.

Amal Dave, a student from Northeast High School, wondered whether the problem rested more with students who are easily distracted than with those wearing particular clothing.

"Kids are going to be upset, but they're going to have to live with it," he said.

The current one-paragraph dress code has been criticized for more than two years as vague and lacking teeth.

Many school systems around the country have tightened dress codes in the name of classroom discipline, reasoning that proper attire contributes to an environment where learning is encouraged.

That sentiment has been echoed by Anne Arundel parents.

Pub Date: 12/19/96

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