Schools study proposal for strengthening dress code Crop tops, short shorts among targeted clothing

December 03, 1996|By Andrea F. Siegel | Andrea F. Siegel,SUN STAFF

Several teen fashions will be barred from Anne Arundel schools under a proposal to strengthen the dress code.

Crop tops, short shorts and underwear-revealing baggy pants are among the targeted clothing. The school board will review the proposal at its meeting tomorrowand could put it into effect ++ in January.

An initial revision of the one-paragraph dress code failed to win board approval in June.

The proposed policy would bar clothes and accessories that depict obscenity or violence; promote the use or abuse of tobacco, drugs or alcohol; pose a health or safety risk; or disrupt school.

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

Repeated violations would be punishable by suspension.

Steven H. White Jr., the student board member, liked the proposal. But he said some female friends object to a ban on popular midriff-exposing shirts.

"School is where kids come to learn. It's not the mall. It's not the street corner," said M. Jacques Smith, principal of MacArthur Middle School and a member of last year's student conduct committee. "It's not the beach."

Though much of the proposed policy is the rule in many schools, parents and principals complained last year that the lack of a stronger systemwide dress code undermined enforcement.

Joyce Smith, principal of Annapolis Senior High School, said she follows a 1990 recommendation against head wear by the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools.

"Kids can pull the hoods and hats down over their faces and go to sleep," she said. With their faces half-covered, "students can become anonymous too quickly."

The ban on head coverings does not make an exception for hats worn for religious reasons. But interpretations of the Constitution and federal law would allow religious head coverings, said P. Tyson Bennett, the school board's lawyer.

While he was unsure if that exception should be stated in the policy, his advice to principals would be not to tell a student to remove religious head wear "unless [it] is on fire."

The proposed policy does not distinguish between illegal and legal drugs or address double meanings in slogans.

Also tomorrow, school officials will recommend adding Japanese and American Sign Language next year as foreign languages. Major universities accept Japanese to fulfill foreign language requirements. Many accept American Sign Language, said Patricia Orndorff, foreign language coordinator for county schools. More than 60 students at Severna Park High School said they would take Japanese if it were offered, making it a likely place for a pilot program.

At least five Maryland school systems offer American Sign Language and three offer Japanese.

Pub Date: 12/03/96

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