Citing a need to focus on academic performance and improve school unity, the East Haven Board of Education voted 7-2 to adopt a new at its .
The dress code would go into effect this fall for the district's kindergarten to 8th grade students.
And then, move into the high school the following fall for the start of the 2013-14 school year.
The vote to adopt the new policy came after close to two hours of discussion among parents, teachers, board members and administrators.
Echoing many of the comments of his fellow board members, Board of Education Chairman Thomas Hennessey said he felt the dress code would be an important step toward becoming a higher "performing, educational school district."
"I would like this board to raise student expectations and this is a piece of it," Hennessey said.
"The other thing I think I like — it's pride," Hennessey said of a dress code, adding he felt the code would also help to instill a sense of belonging and school spirit in students.
"It's going to be a good thing," he said.
School board members Christine Maisano and Charles Scalesse both voted against the new dress code policy.
Both said while they were in favor of a dress code in general, they felt more time was needed to focus on the specific aspects of the district's new policy.
"I'm on the fence, but I'm leaning towards no," Scalesse said, adding he felt the board needed "more time" for discussion and review.
"I'm thinking we need a little more time," she said.
High School Included
Although it was not part of , school board members did approve the dress code for the district's high school students starting on the first day of school for the 2013-14 school year.
Initially, the proposed policy only effected kindergarten through 8th graders, which was the version of the policy discussed at the earlier this month.
School board members said they were not aware the policy had been changed to include the high school until they read the revised final draft in their packets for Tuesday's meeting.
But Assistant Superintendent of Schools Erica Forti said the final draft of the new policy was expanded to include grades 9 to 12 in direct response to parent comment during the forum. Several parents also spoke of their desire to see the dress code implemented up through the high school level as well during Tuesday night's meeting
Forti added that since the discussion had not originally included the high school, and the fact that EHHS parents and staff had not participated in the dess code survey sent out earlier this year, the one-year delay in implementation at the 9th to 12th grade level would give the district more time to gather feedback and prepare the older students for the new dress code policy.
Hennessey said at first, he was glad the initial policy did not include the high school.
"I was happy. I didn't want to deal with the high school," the school board chairman said.
"I'd fear bringing it to the high school," he said, adding he felt the board would "get a much bigger response" from the upper grades' students and parents regarding opposition to the new policy.
But EHHS Principal Stephen Anderson said he has been an educator at a high school that has implemented a dress code and he is confident it can be successfully done in East Haven, too.
Hennessey added that there was no attempt to keep students and parents in the dark regarding the inclusion of the high school in the new dress code, the change in the final draft was simply a reaction to parental comments and discussion regarding the new policy.
"I just don't want you to think this was some kind of conspiracy by the board," he said.