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Dress guidelines revised at two Pa. school districts

August 04, 2004|by DON AINES

chambersburg@herald-mail.com

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - Some students may be seeing less of each other when the school year begins, if only because they will be required to wear more, according to officials in the Chambersburg and Tuscarora school districts.

Language in the student handbooks for dress guidelines has been changed "to address some issues that we feel have been a problem with students in the past few years," said Eric Michael, assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction for Chambersburg schools.

"Spaghetti and other narrow-strapped shirts, halter tops, tube tops, tank tops or half shirts are not to be worn," according to an addition to the student handbook for Chambersburg Area Middle School.

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Shirts that expose the midriff are not be worn and pants must be worn so undergarments are not visible, according to the handbook.

Middle School Principal Tim Bowers said the changes in dress guidelines are in effect for all of the district's secondary schools.

"We have a dress policy that is rather generally written," Michael said. "We're not passing a dress code. We're revising our guidelines for dress within our student handbooks."

Those guidelines already banned hats and other headgear; shirts with drug, alcohol or tobacco references or logos; garments with vulgar, indecent or harassing messages; extremely tight or short clothing; gang-related attire; and chains, dog collars and spiked jewelry, according to the middle school handbook.

The dress and grooming policy adopted by the Chambersburg School Board in 1990 leaves it up to parents and students to decide what to wear, "except when their choices affect the educational program of the schools or the health and safety of others."

"We're here for education as opposed to a fashion show," said Rodney Benedick, dean of students at James Buchanan High School in the Tuscarora School District.

He described changes in that district's dress code as "nothing dramatic. The biggest thing we did is we're doing away with any sort of sleeveless shirts or anything low-cut."

Shorts now have to extend down to students' fingertips as measured when they are standing, he said.

A video of fashion faux pas will be shown to students, Benedick said.

The usual procedure for dealing with violators in Tuscarora is to call a student's parents and have them bring in appropriate clothing, Benedick said. Repeat offenders could face in-school suspension, detention or other penalties, if necessary, he said.

Bowers said the policy is generally the same in Chambersburg.

"We would just ask the parents to come in and give them something to wear," Bowers said.

If a parent is unavailable, the student could be given a T-shirt or get something from his or her gym locker to cover the offending garment.

"I have heard concerns from parents, from the community and from other students" that led to the changes in the handbooks, Michael said.

"We have had no reason to revisit our dress code," said Barry Dallara, superintendent of the Waynesboro Area School District. "Attire that is not appropriate is addressed."

Waynesboro resident Cathy Keefer said she wished schools had tougher dress standards.

"They ought to all go to uniforms," said Keefer. "They should have the original color of their hair, not green or red," she said.

Michael said it is unclear how far public schools can go in dictating what students can wear.

"There are still some implications out there that have yet to be defined by the court as to how far we can go," he said.

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