Originally created 08/05/99

Up to code

Sagging, baggy pants that drag the ground -- out.

Skirts way above the knee -- out.

T-shirts tucked -- in.

Those are just a few of the changes to the Columbia County schools dress code to be considered Tuesday by the county board of education.

School officials say the move to adopt a systemwide policy for middle and high school pupils is an attempt to address safety concerns that grew out of the shootings at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colo.

"I think they're overreacting," said Debby Balcer, whose daughter attends Lakeside High School. "I really don't think it's a safety issue."

Columbia County is not alone in its attempt to make schools safer by restricting the kinds of clothes students can wear. The Richmond County school board in June approved what it calls a mandatory school uniform policy for the county's 37 elementary schools and 10 middle schools. Parents in Richmond County who don't want their children to wear uniforms may sign a waiver that would require the pupils to dress neatly.

That's the approach some Columbia County students wish their school system would take instead of a dress code they say would be difficult to enforce fairly.

"It's kind of hard to judge if a shirt is made to be tucked in or not," said John Smilak, a 17-year-old senior at Lakeside High. "I don't tuck in a lot of my shirts. It's hard to say these pants are baggy, and these aren't."

Ashley Stevens' tried-and-true method of determining skirt length -- holding her arms to her side and applying the fingertip test -- may no longer hold up.

"If there's a good inch of cloth below my fingertip, I'd wear it," the 14-year-old Harlem High student said. "Usually by doing that, it's an acceptable outfit."

Enforcement would be done primarily by homeroom teachers who will make observing student dress part of their morning routine, schools Superintendent Tommy Price said.

Other teachers would be expected to look for violations and report them to administrators. The policy does not address body piercings or hair color, but administrators can prohibit anything considered disruptive.

"You can't expect a teacher to get every single person with so many kids," said Lakeside High senior Farrah Bredengerd. "How are they going to be able to do their jobs teaching if they're worried about what kids are wearing?"

Students who do not comply with the dress code would be allowed to call home for suitable clothing, but would be charged an unexcused absence if they leave school to change and would not be allowed to make up missed work.

Students who refuse to comply would receive in-school suspension and would be allowed to complete classwork.

Principals said they think the proposed dress code would be enforceable and plan to meet with teachers once the school board adopts the policy.

"It's like anything else; you're going to do the very best you can," Lakeside High Principal Julius McAnally said.

Some parents said it would have been helpful if they had been notified earlier of the proposed changes, because classes start Aug. 23. But parents like Ann Grzonka, who has a daughter at Evans High, said she could see the merits of tackling such a touchy issue.

"If clothes fit you better, you're not as likely to hide anything," she said. "I think as parents we need to back the schools up."

The Columbia County school board is expected to vote on the dress code policy at its meeting at 6 p.m. Tuesday at Evans Government Complex.

Richmond County guidelines

The Richmond County school board has adopted mandatory uniforms for elementary and middle school pupils.

For information on uniforms and the dress code for Richmond County schools, see Page 3 of the Back to School section in today's editions of The Augusta Chronicle.

Parents who, for religious or financial reasons, do not want their children to wear uniforms must fill out a written request at their children's school. The child would have to follow the school's dress code policy.

Pupils in grades six through eight at Davidson Fine Arts Magnet School will not be required to wear uniforms because as part of a high school, they follow the rules for high school students.

Proposed Columbia County dress code

Clothes and shoes that show good taste, avoiding extreme designs and styles that may pose a safety problem, are expected. Headdress (hats, sweatbands and scarves that are meant to be worn outside) is not to be worn inside the school building. Undergarments are not to be exposed.

Shirts and blouses -- Shirts or blouses that are designed to be worn tucked in, including all T-shirts, must be tucked into the waistband of the pants or skirt. Unacceptable attire includes clothing that exposes the torso, such as see-through garments, halters, spaghetti straps, backless dresses, tube tops, tank tops or muscle shirts, bare midriff outfits, or shirts or blouses that are tied at, or may rise above, the waist.

Skirt, shorts and dresses -- Skirts and shorts must be fitted at the waist and should be worn at the knee area. Mini-skirts are deemed to be disruptive and are not allowed. This includes skirts and dresses and any opening that exposes the thigh above the knee area designation. As a rule, the hemline should be no shorter than 4 inches above mid-kneecap.

Pants and shorts -- Pants and shorts must be fitted at the waist. They must not be baggy and must not be frayed at the bottom. Pants must not drag the floor. Unacceptable shorts include, but are not limited to, athletic shorts, spandex-style "bicycle" shorts, cutoff jeans, cutoff sweat pants, short-shorts, running shorts, and see-through boxer-type shorts.

Belts and straps -- Belts, if worn, must be secured at the waist and buckled. All straps should be fastened, and sashes must be tied.

Hats -- No hats or head covers may be worn in the building (unless worn for religious reasons).

Bandanas -- No bandanas of any type will be allowed.

Fraternity and sorority insignias on clothing are forbidden.

Sunshade and/or dark glasses will not be worn inside the school building unless prescribed by a physician or another person who is professionally qualified to make such recommendations.

Students shall not wear clothing (shirts, caps, etc.) that will in any way promote or advertise the use of narcotics, alcoholic beverages, tobacco or stimulant drugs that are illegal for any such student to use.

Suggestive, vulgar or obscene pictures and/or language on clothing or body are forbidden.

NOTE: Cheerleading uniforms shall be worn during the school day for pep rallies only. Additionally, for safety reasons, extreme out-of-season dress may be questioned by school administration.

Source: Columbia County Board of Education

Peggy Ussery can be reached at (706) 868-1222, Ext. 112, or ussery@augustachroncle.com.


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