Originally created 08/27/99

Columbia's dress code



The Columbia County School Board made the right decision last Tuesday by voting 4-1 for a stricter dress code. What is surprising is that there was so much controversy over the proposal -- which should be a no-brainer.

Why would a tougher dress code, including uniforms in some schools, go down so smoothly in Richmond County while it set off a firestorm in Columbia County? It's because the Richmond school system did a better job of inviting parental and student comment and input at public hearings held countywide.

Soon a consensus developed that uniforms and stiffer dress codes -- though not a cure-all for all that ails schools -- is a step in the right direction. It discourages dress competition, and showoff or gang attire while encouraging civility and order. In short, it produces a better environment for learning.

The Columbia School Board simply plunged ahead with the stricter dress code without inviting the broader community to contribute to the decision-making until the decision was virtually already made.

Now it's got a divided public and a lot of angry parents and students on its hands.

Even so, the controversy should fade as the school year progresses. But next time such an issue comes up the Columbia Board would be well advised to follow Richmond County's leadership formula to marshal public support first.