Brown Deer High School students next year will face strict enforcement of tighter dress code rules if the School Board approves an amended policy.
The policy, which is expected to be reviewed by the board in June, has been taken on by a group of high school administrators looking to rid the school of the inappropriate display of cleavage and underwear.
The impetus for examination of the policy came from the school's PTO. During a meeting last fall, parent Jami Wild expressed concern with what she saw students wearing during a community pep rally.
"I was just very, very disappointed with what I saw some of the students wearing," she said. "In talking with other parents, we have all become more and more frustrated with what we feel is offensive and indecent dress."
Karen Mitch, PTO vice president, said she believes in the philosophy of dressing for success.
"I think the way you dress is the way you act and the way you behave," she said. "I don't want to see boys' underwear and I don't want to see girls' front cleavage. … We are asking for people to pull up their pants and cover their chest."
Exposing undergarments, skin
Hearing the concerns, high school Principal James Piatt and Assistant Principal Greg Schaffer began to examine the policy, reviewing policies from other area high schools and the legalities regarding student dress.
"Given the circumstances in our society, you need to change things a little bit or add some things," Schaffer said. "We are trying to look at everything."
The policy, according to Schaffer, also will address a safety issue by prohibiting the wearing of pants with large pockets and thick vests that could conceal dangerous items.
Several sources also said that two types of apparel are in the crosshairs of the policy - low-riding jeans that allow the wearer to expose his or her underwear and blouses exposing skin and body parts.
The dress code is in the student handbook. It is a seven-paragraph statement prohibiting clothes causing distractions or disruptions to the educational environment.
It also prohibits clothing that promotes illegal activities such as drug use, drinking or smoking.
The code forbids outside clothes such as hats, gloves and coats to be worn inside, attire alluding to gang activity and accessories that are unsafe, such as chains.
The policy also states, "It is never appropriate for a student's underwear and undergarments to be visible due to excessively tight, loose or skimpy clothing."
Enforcement of the policy
The major challenge for administrators is and will be consistency, both from a standards and enforcement point of view. What is acceptable to some may be out-of-line for others, Wild said.
"One of the things that was surprising to us is that we felt the current dress code (was) more than adequate," Wild said. "It was that it wasn't being enforced."
"Not everything we do will satisfy everybody, but you have to come to the point where it's a median and it works and it makes sense," Schaffer said. "Obviously we don't want kids exposing a lot of skin. Obviously we don't want to see anybody's underwear. Obviously we don't want to create any kind of hazard to the school environment."
The lack of air conditioning in the school is another factor administrators must consider when examining the dress code policy, Schaffer said.
Some support from students
The student body will not completely endorse the policy change, according to School Board student representative Scott Davis, who was unaware of the policy amendment. However, students themselves have levied complaints to administrators regarding the dress of some of their classmates this year, he said.
"It really isn't enforced a whole lot," Davis said. Administrators "say as people pass in the hallway 'pull up those pants' or 'take off that hood.' It's off for about 10 seconds until they get around the corner and then it goes right back on."
Students are sent home if they commit an infraction regarding the dress code. Shaffer said records will be kept of every infraction starting next school year.
The concentration on dress throughout the district gained momentum last year when new middle school Principal Blake Peuse and Assistant Principal Dimitrious Foster came on board last year.
The pair has been instrumental in stemming the tide of behavior issues that had plagued the school. Peuse last year made a PowerPoint presentation to middle school students demonstrating through visual guidelines clearly what is acceptable and unacceptable dress.
Brendan O'Brien can be reached at (262) 446-6602 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Spring 2006 - Blake Peuse hired as Brown Deer Middle School principal.
Summer 2006 - Dimitrious Foster hired as middle school assistant principal.
Fall 2006 - Parents voice concern about dress code at Brown Deer High School at PTO meeting.
Winter to spring 2007 - High school administration starts to examine policy.
June 2007 - School Board expected to deliberate a stricter dress code for the high school.
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