Panel set to review proposal on attire

Students' suggestions would standardize rules at 15 middle, high schools

Carroll County

May 20, 2002|By Jennifer McMenamin | Jennifer McMenamin,SUN STAFF

Interim Superintendent Charles I. Ecker has appointed a committee to consider a dress code proposed by the Carroll County Student Government Association that would standardize more than a dozen disparate sets of rules on what students can and can't wear to the county's 15 middle and high schools.

"Everyone felt they either were getting a good deal or a bad deal," CCSGA President Frank Puleo said, "and we decided we'd at least like to make it fair."

The resulting proposal would toughen standards at some high schools while relaxing rules at others. Students at three high schools that prohibit bare shoulders, for instance, would be able to wear sleeveless shirts again so long as they "fit modestly so that girls' cleavage area is covered," according to the suggested regulations.

Other rules, including a requirement that skirts hit mid-thigh when a girl is seated, astonished school officials who never expected stricter dress code regulations from students.

"I was a little surprised at the conservative slant that it had, knowing that students are thought of as very liberal and always looking for different outlets to stand out," said Drew Cockley, an assistant principal at North Carroll High and an adviser to the county Student Government Association.

Asked why guidelines are necessary to regulate the way students dress for school, administrators and teachers most often point to the distraction caused by revealing or attention-grabbing clothing.

"It causes an activity apart from instruction, especially in middle school, where you have a very hormonal group of kids," said Donald Pyles, Carroll's director of middle schools, who will be chairman of the committee considering the student government's dress code proposal.

"The biggest problem right now is that what children can buy is so limited. The fashion world is there to sell clothes, so they sell what children want and not necessarily what parents and teachers want them to be wearing," he said. "So you have the hip-huggers and you have Britney Spears showing her bellybutton so every kid in the world wants to be showing her bellybutton and that's just not appropriate for school."

Puleo, a Westminster High senior, agreed, mentioning a male friend who likes to wear "big, pouffy slippers" to school and girls whose short dresses and tube tops cause a commotion.

"Being a guy, if someone's dressed like that, you tend to take notice," he said. "If you do, it takes your mind off what you're doing in class and you think about the girl in class instead of the classwork and this causes a big problem."

But Pyles raises one concern: "If you get into all the measurements, the problem becomes who's going to do the measuring?" he asked. "And how much time do we want to take from an administrator's day to deal with this and not take away from their real job, which is to teach children? We can't let the tail wag the dog."

For Cockley, the council's work demonstrated students' maturity and perhaps shattered a few stereotypes.

"They're not trying to change people's ways or impose their own views. They're really looking to improve the image of students across the county," he said. "They're looking for respect from adults and they know that sometimes what people say and do loses the respect and it has an impact on everybody. Sometimes the actions of a few really do affect everyone. They knew that in creating a dress code like this, they were helping kids dress respectfully for school so people wouldn't say, `You're just a teen-ager, you don't know.' "

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