Emotional parents showed up in force at meeting Tuesday night, firing off a barrage of criticism at , especially a version that's circulated via email over the past week.
While not officially on the agenda, the issue dominated public comment, as about two dozen members of the public showed up at the normally sparsely-attended meeting, generating nearly an hours' worth of debate on the subject.
And at the heart of much of the discussion was enforceability.
“What's wrong with the old one?” questioned Bill Connelly.
School board President Christopher Strano said it's a matter of the current dress code being too loose and too difficult to enforce.
“The whole essence of this is...it starts at home,” Strano said. “It came down to interpretation.”
But several parents, including Connelly, blasted that as punishing the majority who stick to the rules for a minority who violate the current code.
“It's not appropriate for a public school system to take that responsibility away from us as parents,” Connelly said.
freshman Meghan Garvin said she doesn't see much in the way of dress code violations at school—mostly the sagging-pants variety—and said she and her friends have talked about the issue.
“I don't think a lot of them want this,” she said.
Other parents critiqued it as shifting an unnecessary burden on to families. As Strano acknowledged, the board isn't responsible for picking up any of the costs for a shift to a standardized dress code, rather than going to uniforms—a semantic difference, perhaps, but one not lost on those in attendance.
“You've now essentially doubled my school budget,” said Tracy Hastings. “I'm sorry, I think you're wrong on this.”
While many parents pointed to printouts of one version of the dress code—one that mandates polo shirts and khaki pants and bans jeans—that had been forwarded around in various circles in the last week, policy committee chair Peter Guzzetti said the committee has gone through multiple versions since the idea was first broached last year.
“We've been revising as we go,” he said.
A finalized version of that code should be up on the school district's website in the coming weeks, though, Guzzetti said. Parents will be able to offer comments and criticism on that policy, before the board goes to a phone survey of all parents in the district, to find out if there's support for the amended version.
Until that's done, Guzzetti said, there won't be any action.
“There has been no recommendation to the board to go forward with this,” he said.
That wasn't enough to convince everyone in attendance, however.
Several parents brought up the decision to go to grade-level schools as it related to the dress code debate, claiming the board railroaded through that idea after the 2009 budget crisis.
“How can we trust you?” Cheryl Reeve said.
As Strano and other board members pointed out, the decision to go to grade-level schools came about at least in part because of the defeated budget that year, which was gutted to the point where neighborhood schools were too expensive to remain.
But, like that decision, Strano said the final call on the dress code will come down to whether it improves the learning environment.
“We have a great school system,” he said. “We're trying to make it better.”
Reeve and other parents disagreed with that notion.
“I can't see my child being a straight-A student by wearing khakis and a polo,” she said.