The Pasco County School Board has revised its student dress code to remove the phrase that requires a student’s blouse to “extend to the waist.”
But it’s unlikely that the vote will be the end of district discussion on the issue.
A specific committee will likely review the issue during an update of the Student Code of Conduct for the 2024-2025 school year.
The school board voted 4-0 to approve the dress code for next school year during its Oct. 17 meeting. Board chairwoman Megan Harding was absent.
The dress code change drew considerable debate during previous board discussions, with Harding and school board member Cynthia Armstrong wanting to keep the requirement and school board members Colleen Beaudoin, Alison Crumbley and Al Hernandez favoring the change.
At the Oct. 3 public hearing, two speakers raised objections to the proposed dress code.
Pat Rogers, who frequently appears at board meetings to question various policies, told the board: “This morning, on my way here, I saw a very young girl walking down the sidewalk going to her school with shorts with legs that were maybe this long on them,” she said, indicating a couple of inches.
“Granted, she was young, but that was still too short for school.
“That’s fine for when you are playing at home and out in the yard, but at school, I think there needs to be a length, like 2 inches above the knee or something. So that these short shorts are not being worn around in school because they’re just as distracting as everything else, especially when you get to the young teen boys, the pre-teens.
“Anyway, that needs to be taken care of. The dress code to me is still kind of vague,” she said.
She thinks the code needs more clarity so parents know precisely what the rules are, instead of trying to guess.
“I know you guys can do a better job than this,” she said.
In previous discussions regarding the dress code, Beaudoin urged her colleagues to remove the phrase “extend to the waist” regarding blouses.
Like her colleagues, Beaudoin said she’d like to see students dress professionally and appropriately, but she noted that she believes that ultimately that’s a parental right and responsibility.
Beaudoin also pointed to community norms and said the type of clothing being discussed is socially acceptable.
Plus, she said there are more important issues for the board’s focus, and the dress code is not a barrier to education.
But Nancy Christian, of Land O’ Lakes, told board members that she strongly disagreed with Beaudoin’s rationale.
Christian said she’s a mother and grandmother, a frequent school and community volunteer, a retired bus driver from another district, and a barber.
In those roles, she said she’s come into contact with young people of all ages for many years.
She told the board: “Clothing makes a difference. Certain clothing isn’t appropriate for school. Bare midriffs, bare backs and exposed cleavage isn’t appropriate for the classroom or walking around school.
“It can be distracting, and what is the purpose of such attire?
“A student’s clothing affects their attitude for the good or the bad. Maybe not so much from kindergarten to fourth grade, but after that it depends on the child, but it starts to make a difference.”
“Part of the parents’ responsibility is to teach their child the rules and how to follow them,” Christian said.
Board members said they received feedback on both sides of the issue.
During the Oct. 17 meeting, Armstrong said: “I just want to say that I really appreciate all of the emails I received, and the calls and the discussions about the dress code.
“As you know, I was the one who added on, ‘extend to the waist’ for the shirt.”
“I thought it was pretty clear what that meant, but apparently it was not.
“I do feel like we’ve opened up this discussion about ‘What is appropriate attire for a learning environment? How do we prepare our students to participate in the workforce after they leave school?’
“So, I’m hoping this discussion will continue when we have the committee meet for the next Code of Student Conduct next year and that they will consider some of the suggestions that we received in our emails about how maybe that could be better worded to avoid some of the controversy over it, and to make sure that it was clear and concise.”
Board member Crumbley agreed the discussion should continue next year.
She said she appreciated the comments she received on the issue.
“I see all of the sides. I think it was a good conversation.
“I believe our objective will be to maybe turn this over to a special task force within the Code of Conduct Committee,” Crumbley said, noting that the group can look at the suggestions and emails that came in, in preparation for the 2024-2025 school year.
Published November 08, 2023