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Southeast Bulloch schools consider dress code
Board set to pass new clothing policy

The following are highlights of a proposed dress code for Southeast Bulloch Middle and High schools, presented Thursday to the Bulloch County school board:
-    Tops: long- or short-sleeved polo shirt, Oxford shirt, crew-neck shirt, turtleneck top or crew-neck sweater or sweatshirt (with or without hood). Must have sleeves.
-    Bottoms: khaki-style pants or slacks; denim jeans; cotton, denim or twill skirts, shorts, skorts, capri pants, culottes or jumpers. Pant legs may not drag on floor, any bottom clothing must be worn at waist line and be no higher than 4 inches above the bended knee, must not have rips or holes.
-    No see-through material unless worn over an approved top or bottom article of clothing.
-    Discipline: in-school suspension or sent home for the day for first two violations; two days of in-school suspension for third offense.

Southeast Bulloch High School Principal Trey Robertson hopes a proposed dress code will prompt a few students to reveal a little less next school year.
The code, proposed only for Southeast Bulloch Middle and High schools for the 2012-13 school year, would allow students to wear polo, button-up, crew-neck or turtle-neck shirts and khaki or denim pants, shorts or skirts. Shorts or skirts would have to be no higher than 4 inches above the bended knee.
Robertson told the Bulloch County school board Thursday night that teachers, parents and students participated in the process of developing the dress code proposal. The goal was to remove distractions caused by low-cut blouses and form-fitting yoga pants while not causing an undue financial burden on students and parents.
The board granted initial approval to the policy. It will come up for final approval at the next board meeting, scheduled for May 10.
“We met with our senior student council, our school council, faculty and staff,” Robertson told the board. “It was a two-month process to build consensus and determine which things we could easily manage.”
In recent years, some schools around the country have implemented much more restrictive dress code policies than the Southeast Bulloch proposal. Many of those measures prohibit T-shirts and specify that polo or Oxford-style shirts must be a solid color, and some even limit what those colors may be. A good number also prohibit denim.
“We didn’t want to put an undue burden or cost on our students or families,” Robertson said. “Eighty-five to 90 percent of our students would currently meet the new dress code easily.”
Student attire has been an unnecessary distraction for school staff in recent years, the principal said, particularly with girls wearing yoga pants and low-cut blouses.
“(The dress code) has nothing to do with fashion, but it is a distraction.” he said. “You have to tell a young lady to pull up her shirt so her cleavage is not showing because that will be a distraction to a 16-year-old boy.”
Board member Mike Herndon said it might be better to implement a revised dress code for the entire district rather than just Southeast Bulloch Middle and High. Or, he said, the schools ought to try harder to enforce the existing dress code, which lists what students cannot wear.
“It seems to be a little unfair when you make everybody do the same thing,” Herndon said. “If the problem is with a small percentage breaking (the rules), maybe you just have to be tougher on policing it.”
The problem, Robertson responded, is that a list of prohibited items leads students to stretch the rules by wearing other articles of clothing not already mentioned.
“You end up chasing things forever if you address it that way,” he said.

Jason Wermers may be reached at (912) 489-9431.

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