Calling it a necessary step to clarify the old code and address community concerns, the West Deptford school board approved the first reading of a streamlined dress code for the Monday night.
Unlike the months of wrangling that took place earlier this year over , the updated high school code—which goes into effect with the start of the school year—passed unanimously after just a single question on footwear.
While there wasn’t communitywide support for the standardized dress code, Superintendent Kevin Kitchenman said there were still complaints from parents about the old code, making some revisions necessary for the high school's code, which is the only one affected. The middle school and elementary schools will continue to use their respective dress codes.
“It’s not anything radical…it’s not different than the previous code in what’s unacceptable,” he said, as he ticked off some examples of what remains banned under the revised version.
“Bare midriff clothing was never allowed, is not allowed and will never be allowed,” he said. “Obscene T-shirts were never allowed, are not allowed and will never be allowed.”
There are some differences, though—the updated version mandates students wear shirts that cover their shoulders, explicitly banning tank tops worn without a shirt underneath. Under the old code, there was some ambiguity, with a reference to 2-inch straps on shirts making them acceptable garments.
Resolving that ambiguity was something Kitchenman and high school principal Brian Gismondi said they wanted to eliminate with the revisions, so staff members could make a more informed judgment on whether a student’s attire is appropriate.
“We need to raise our staff’s level of concern so they take a look,” Kitchenman said. “Let’s not fool ourselves: Because humans are doing the judging, it still may be ambiguous—we hope it will be less.”
The updated code also has some revisions to reflect current fashion trends—besides dropping dated references such as, “trousers,” the code bans sagged pants that expose a student’s underwear. It also bars yoga pants, stretch pants and leggings, except when students wear fingertip-length clothing on top of those items.
It also keeps in place restrictions on clothing that advocates drug, alcohol or tobacco use, among other offensive or inflammatory material.
“High school kids will always be the ones who push the envelope,” Kitchenman said.
The full text of the revised code:
The teaching staff and the administration maintain that grooming and dress habits are important to a student's academic success and well-being. However, since it is also recognized that the regulation of student dress is essentially a Rarental responsibility, the following code represents a minimum standard:
Standards for Dress Code
Students should dress in a way as to not present a risk to themselves or others. For this reason, protective eyewear must be worn in lab classes and appropriate footwear must be worn. Spiked jewelry, apparel or accessories are prohibited. No outwear, headwear or sunglasses may be worn indoors. Any exceptions will be made by the administration (religious, spirit days, etc.).
Students should dress in such a ways as not to distract from teaching or learning.
All shirts must cover shoulders.
Examples of inappropriate dress which are prohibited include, but are not limited to:
- Low-cut, revealing tops.
- Clothing that is tight as to be form fitting is immodest and, therefore, inappropriate.
- Bare midriff or bare shoulder attire such as halter, spaghetti strap, tank or tube tops, muscle shirts, see-through tops, sleepwear.
The lowest point of clothing shall be fingertip length with arms at rest.
Examples of inappropriate dress which are prohibited include, but not limited to:
- Pants, shorts, and skorts worn lower than the hip resulting in exposure of undergarments or inappropriate exposure of the body, sleepwear.
- Excessively short skirts, skorts, or shorts. All shorts, skorts, shirts, and slits in outfits must touch the bottom of the fingertips when arms are resting at the sides.
- Cut-offs and clothing with holes.
- Yoga, stretch pants and leggings can only be worn underneath fingertip length garments.
Students should dress in such a way as to not give offense or intimidate. Examples of prohibited attire include, but are not limited to:
- T-shirts, shirts, sweatshirts with inflammatory symbols or statements or clothing bearing words or images that may be deemed offensive.
- Have sexually suggestive writing/pictures, advocate violence.
- Advertise or promote the use of tobacco, alcohol, drugs, have double meaning wording or obscene language/gestures, are disrespectful in nature.