The Harford County Board of Education voted last night to adopt a dress-code policy outlawing a range of clothing styles, including tank tops, sleepwear and flip-flop shoes - but not before more than a half-dozen students, administrators and parents raised concerns about its strictness and how it could be enforced.
"Learning is not just what you find in a math book," said Jan McDonald, a parent of children at Bel Air Middle and Bel Air High schools. Learning to dress appropriately is one of the ways students learn to accept more responsibility, she said, and cautioned that the policy would turn administrators into "fashion police at the front door."
Several students said outlawing flip-flops and open-toed sandals was excessive, as was requiring students to leave jackets in their lockers all day - except when principals deem the indoor temperature warrants keeping them.
Ian Hull, president of the Harford County Association of Student Councils, on the other hand, said his group supported most facets of the policy, although he said it did not support the ban on tank tops. But, he added, the policy "needs to be solid - you need to have specific words" to help prevent inconsistent enforcement.
The dress-code policy and lengthy list of enforcement guidelines transcends the typical ban on T-shirts with objectionable content by targeting super-short skirts, bare midriffs and baggy pants that hug hips below underwear waistbands.
A rule requiring shirts to be tucked in was dropped after principals and administrators raised concerns over enforceability, said schools spokesman Don Morrison.
At a time when some Maryland public schools are moving to uniforms, the board expressed support for them but stopped short of requiring them.
Students' appearance has raised concerns in schools around the region. Carroll County's school board is considering new dress restrictions proposed by students tired of seeing some classmates' scanty and sloppy attire.
The board also adopted a policy requiring students to store backpacks in lockers during the school day.
Student board member Samuel Fromille said the policy created "a major inconvenience" for students that it "does not solve the problems the board is trying to address." Weapons, he said, can still be smuggled into schools other ways.