Jul 28, 2014

School Dress Code Change Considered, Feedback Sought

A possible dress code will be up for discussion at the next Board of Education meeting.

School Dress Code Change Considered, Feedback Sought

The jury is still out on whether any changes will be made to the current dress code for students, particularly at the Bridgewater-Raritan High School—but the board of education is hoping to get feedback from parents in the district.

The board of education’s policy committee has been contemplating altering the current dress code for students to make it a little more strict, while also discussing whether a dress code needs to be imposed for staff.

According to board member Daniel Petrozelli, high school principal Brett Charleston has requested a year to address the dress code for students before the board of education makes a decision on what to do about the policy.
Petrozelli said the previous principal of the high school recommended leaving the policy as is.

Superintendent of Schools Michael Schilder said he has spoken to Charleston, who would like to wait until he has been in the building a little longer before determining whether to change the dress code.

“He has seen that students dress responsibly,” Schilder said. “Are there exceptions? Absolutely. He would like the opportunity to see if those exceptions are going to change if they are simply told to dress appropriately.”

“He said he wanted the opportunity to see how it goes, get to know the students and see exactly what the issues are,” he added.

Board member Ann Marie Mead said that before they decide how to handle a dress code, she would like to hear from the community about what the actual problems are, as well as any potential issues.

Many of the issues, board president Evan Lerner said, concern students dressing too provocatively.

“I have heard from people that the kids dress too provocatively, so as a result, a more formal policy could be called for at the high school,” he said. “I am of the current view that we have a new principal, and I would like to see how he and his staff will handle and enforce the current dress code.”

For most of the board members, they are interested in hearing what the community thinks of the dress code at this point.

“What I have been hearing the problem is is that people are seeing too much of their kids than they need to,” said board member Lynne Hurley. “I have seen it at my bus stop.”

And board member Jill Gladstone said that she has seen boys with their jeans pulled too far down their legs, among other issues.

“I still think we don’t have a problem tweaking what we have,” she said. “If we all agree on some extreme no’s, like you can’t wear a bare midriff. We need some guidelines, but we don’t have to go crazy.”

Board of education vice president Patrick Breslin said he has heard that parents are more concerned that if the policy is too general, it can encourage students to start pushing the envelope.

“It seems a lot fairer to students and parents to have guidelines for the students that are maybe more detailed than they are right now,” he said.

Suvin Song, a student at the high school and one of the student board of education representatives, said that the dress code was stricter when she was in middle school.

“If we do have a policy that’s more detailed, it should be general for boys and girls,” she said. “People are more focused on girls wearing certain things, but boys can wear [something strange] and no one will care because they’re covering up. If there is a policy, it should focus on boys and girls.”

Hurley said she would like to know what the teachers feel about how the students dress, and whether they find it distracting.

The board determined it would plan for a discussion about the dress code at the Oct. 22 meeting with the hope that residents will attend to express their thoughts on whether it is necessary.

As for a staff dress code, Schilder said he is not advocating which direction to go, but that he does not see anything wrong with the way staff members dress.

“I think our staff dresses well, very professionally,” he said. “A staff dress code sometimes helps the situation, but I think our staff dresses professionally.”

Board member Arvind Mathur said he thinks this should be investigated as well, and the teachers can serve as an example to the students if they are following their own dress code.

Possible dress codes will be discussed at the Oct. 22 meeting, to be held at 8 p.m. at the John F. Kennedy Primary School in Raritan.

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