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When it comes to legislating suitable clothing for Volusia County public-school students, the School Board itself is beset by indecision and uncertainty.

Three years after the board adopted a new dress code for students, the problem is back.

“Do we need this trouble?” School Board Chair Carl Persis asked March 12, after the School Board spent more than an hour in a workshop debating the dress policy. “There are so many other issues that we need to talk about.”

Implementation of the dress code is going fairly well at the elementary-school level, according to a survey of principals.

In high schools, however, principals have complained that enforcing a dress code that is ignored by large numbers of students is cutting into instructional time.

Of nine high schools surveyed, four said between 26 percent and 50 percent of students were in compliance with the dress code.

Another four schools estimated that 51 percent to 75 percent comply, and one high school said between 76 percent and 100 percent of students are in compliance.

The workshop ended with a consensus to refer the issues to low-level administrators for more talk and ideas, in anticipation of getting their recommendations for revising the rules, if necessary.

“The high-school principals and assistant principals will get together to see how they would like to see things go,” Persis said.

The School Board and district administration agreed that high schools are experiencing the greatest share of problems.

In the survey of principals, among 38 elementary-school principals, only four said fewer than 76 percent of students are complying with the dress code.

Ten middle-school principals who took part in the survey requested only minor changes in the dress code, saying overall it’s working well.

Younger children are “more malleable” and willing to follow rules about clothing and behavior, School Board Member Ruben Colón said.

“Once they get into high school, they start getting — how can I say this delicately? — a little more rebellious,” Area Superintendent Susan Freeman said.

In a nutshell, the dress code requires polo shirts with collars or button-down shirts and solid-color navy-blue, black or tan pants, including blue or black denim. Girls may also wear polo-style dresses, as well as skirts, capris or skorts.

Middle-school principals said students’ hoodies were preventing school personnel from seeing whether the students’ shirts met regulations. Those principals suggested allowing only hoodies with zippers.

The dress code, first adopted in 2016, Persis recalled, came about because of complaints about girls with “too much flesh showing, too much skin showing” and boys wearing their pants so low their underwear could be seen.

Instead of a strict dress code, the current policy spells out guidelines for clothing. One principal attending the School Board workshop suggested that doesn’t go far enough.

“Uniforms would be wonderful,” Mainland High School Principal Dr. Cheryl Salerno replied, suggesting “a polo and tan slacks.”

The tendency toward teenage rebellion, School Board Member Jamie Haynes said, is such that a student may come to school properly dressed and, later in the day, change into clothing that does not meet the dress code.

The School Board did not set a deadline for principals to submit recommendations for changes in the dress policy.


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