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School board brings up dress code

The Suffolk School Board took up the issue of the school dress code in its work session Thursday.

The dress code was brought up because board member Sharon Harris said she was not pleased with what she saw in the schools. The board reviewed the policies, which are set individually in each school, and made suggestions.

The main elements of the dress code are implemented to promote modesty, safety and cutting out references to gangs, drugs and other inappropriate material on students’ clothes. Each school has an extensive policy; the problem, said Kevin Alston, is enforcement.

Alston asked each school principal for their opinion on the dress code, and they invariably said they believe it is enforced inconsistently, Alston said. In addition, elementary principals said they think other information – such as prohibiting shoes that convert into roller skates – should be added. Some high school principals also said they would like to see a clause addressing what to do with repeat offenders.

“That’s almost like insubordination,” Alston said.

Young men’s saggy pants also were a topic of discussion. However, it all boils down to enforcement, board members said.

“Young people will live up to whatever standard you have for them,” said Enoch Copeland. “If they know they aren’t going to be enforced, they’ll do that too.”

Michael Debranski agreed the rules need to be enforced.

“If we have rules, let’s enforce them,” he said. “If we’re not enforcing it, there’s no point in having it – it’s a joke, in my opinion.”

Harris also mentioned the parents needed to be involved in discussions about the dress code.

“Most of these students don’t buy their own clothes,” she said.

Superintendent Milton Liverman said he witnessed one incident in a school recently that proved students know the rules – they just need to be enforced. A female student, inappropriately dressed, was walking down the hall when an administrator asked her if he needed to call her mother to pick her up to go change. The student said, “You don’t have to do that. I have my jeans in my car.”

“Enforcement is the key,” Debranski said. “Inconsistency is the culprit.”