What Not To Wear

By FAITH HUFFMAN | News-Telegram News Editor

July 20, 2007 - Parents and their children who will be attending Sulphur Springs Middle School and Sulphur Springs High School are being asked to take heed of a few revisions to the dress code when outfitting for class.

There's a new list of apparel in the coming school year's clothing criteria which will not be allowed, including several styles of shirts and tops, and ragged, tattered clothing, including garments with holes.

Middle School Principal Glenn Wilson said the new policy, supported by SSHS Principal John McCullough and the school board, is based on the theory that better dressing leads to better behavior, greater pride, and improved performance in class. He said that dressing down tends to extend to sloppier performance and behavior at school. 

Modesty, safety and distractions were other factors cited as reasons for dress code changes and stronger enforcement.

"We are trying to create a safe environment here. We are not trying to be military," Wilson said. "We want the kids to come to school for the purposes intended, to enjoy school, to learn and socialize and participate in extracurricular activities ... If you see some of the safety films we've seen, loose and baggy clothing are not safe."

Students will no longer be allowed to wear "tall T-shirts and oversized jerseys," and thus won't get around the "no sagging" rule by covering pants with a long shirt. Also, those who wear shirts which are designed to be tucked in — such as a button-down shirt with a shirt tail — be prepared to tuck it in.

Students who wear shirts their body size should be OK, provided the shirts don't reach toward the knees.

"We have some big kids. Their shirts come below the waist, but not over their hips. If it's halfway down to their knees, it's too long," said Wilson.

Students with smaller frames could violate the dress code if, for example, they normally wear a size small but choose to wear an extra large T-shirt to school.

"In a situation like that, they could be asked to tuck it in," Wilson said. "If they're wearing clothing their size, length is probably not going to be a problem, as long as it's not deliberately made that way."

Long shirts can also cover up other dress code violations — such as the "no sagging rule — and could conceal other items. 

Wilson also explained that students will be asked to wear pants their size, again with no sagging. 

If a student with a size 32 waist, for example, chooses to wear a size 42, that would require a really tight belt or the student to constantly be pulling them up. That presents safety and modesty issues, Wilson said as the pants falling could result in a student tripping or exposing their buttocks.

Girls should put away any top or dress which displays a bare back, has string straps, is strapless, low-cut or made of see-through material, including undershirt tank tops.

"We want to reiterate modesty for females, and think these rules will cut out some of this," Wilson said. "Revealing midriffs, as a problem, seem to have gone away. The girls' real low-cut tops, and the way they present themselves, are issues now. If it shows cleavage, it's too low."

Also, leave clothes with holes or tears — or just plain ragged — at home. It doesn't matter if it's in style or was just purchased, Wilson said — it won't be allowed.

Students who have holes in their clothing may put a patch on the outside of the garment to cover the hole. And students who are unable to afford new clothing due to financial issues can be considered for assistance in getting conforming clothing.

Shorts and culottes also must still be four inches from the top of the knee cap, no shorter. No pajamas, house shoes or sagging shorts are allowed. Bicycle shorts and tight fitting leggings are not suitable as a principal garment, but may be worn with clothing which does conform to the dress code.

Also, ornamental mouth grills will not be allowed. Wilson said they are discontinued not only because they are distracting, but because they pose safety hazards in the instance the student wearing one falls, is pushed, bumps into something or is in a fight and the grill is struck.

If a students violate the dress code, they will be given "alternative clothing" in the form of jumpsuits like those worn by students at the Alternative Learning Academy. Previously, they could call a parent and miss class while waiting for proper clothing, or were sent to in-school suspension or alternative class. Because that takes away from classroom time, school officials opted to provide the jumpsuits, getting them back into classroom.

"Repeated violations of student dress code shall result in more serious disciplinary action as provided by Board Policy," the policy notes. "Leaving school to correct dress code violations will be unexcused absence with no makeup work allowed."

Students will receive a complete copy of these and other school rules the first week of school, which begins Monday, Aug. 27.

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