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Schools to develop dress code

January 22, 2003|by PEPPER BALLARD

pepperb@herald-mail.com

The Washington County Board of Education agreed Tuesday to form a task force to develop a consistent student dress code for all county public schools.

Shulamit Finkelstein, the school system's executive assistant for strategic planning and community relations, said after the meeting that school officials, students, parents, teachers, and business and community members would be on the task force, which she hopes will be limited to about 12 people.

The task force will be created in February and will work toward having a dress code in place by the next school year, she said.

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"Any proposals would have to be publicized," she said.

During the School Board work session Tuesday, Alaina Rowe, Washington County Association of Student Councils president, presented the student body's perspective on dress codes.

She said students' freedom of expression should be balanced against a dress code that works to provide a safe, healthy and orderly learning environment for both students and teachers.

Rowe asked that a dress code be developed that is consistent across schools and that it be clearly posted in each. The punishment for violation of the dress code should be the same in every school, she said.

"Because fashion changes year to year, the code should be reviewed annually," she said.

Finkelstein said after Citizen Advisory Committees conducted a community survey in 1999-2000, a systemwide dress code was requested.

At that time, community members developed no strong consensus for or against student uniforms, but Rowe said students felt uniforms would be too costly and impractical.

Rowe said the county student government had the task of compiling feedback on student dress codes from individual schools' student councils for about a month before presenting its findings to the School Board Tuesday.

She said county high schools were to survey their student bodies about questions and concerns students had about their current code and present the results to the larger county student government.

Of the county's nine high schools, all but three turned in a survey, Rowe said. Those who did not conduct the surveys were represented through the county student government's presentation, Rowe said.

After the meeting, Schools Superintendent Elizabeth Morgan said she thinks the community's view of a student dress code needs to be weighed into the School Board's decisions on student attire.

She said community dress standards should be reflected in standards set for the students of the community.

"What goes in the streets of Baltimore City may not necessarily go in this community," she said.

"If this was so easy to solve, it would be solved across the country," Morgan said.

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