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School dress code may get a makeover

August 25, 2010
The Gilford School Board has discussed the possibility of making over the dress code across the district for the next school year, though it acknowledged that it won't be "an easy sell" to students.

During a meeting Monday night the board agreed to assign a handful of parents, students, a board member, and an administrator to a committee charged with opening up dialogue and resolving problems with the current dress code.

The committee will represent Gilford Elementary School, Gilford Middle School, and the main concern, Gilford High School.

Board members have looked at improving the dress code in the Gilford School District for the last couple years, and although it is not likely they will turn to strict uniforms, khakis and collared shirts are not far off from the list.

With an example of St. Paul's School of Concord's dress code in hand, including standards on proper apparel for an academic day, school functions, special occasions, and a non-academic day on school grounds, the board assessed appropriate apparel options.

Board member Derek Tomlinson said he felt there was a need for a change in the dress code, but he felt that making the code too strict may backfire in the end at a public school.

"The plan here (St. Paul's dress code) is similar to ours now but eliminates a few things such as spaghetti straps we need to make it easy for the administration to determine whether a student needs to be sent home," said Tomlinson. "We are basically looking at upgrading the dress code."

Superintendent Paul DeMinico suggested that the district take some ownership over a similar dress code of its own to enforce in future years, but also to take some form of action on the matter right now.

"We are dealing with people. Maybe we should get a committee to look at it, and get students on the committee since they are the recipients of the decision," said DeMinico.

He said it wouldn't hurt to factor in the cost of clothing, to make sure the school wasn't asking too much of families financially.

Tomlinson added that parents should be alerted and offered their say in the matter as well.

Board member Rae Mellow-Andrews said it can be a struggle at times for parents to bring their children school shopping without clear dress code guidelines and straight forward clothing. She said that items such as khakis or collared shirts could make life easier in the end.

GHS Principal Ken Wiswell offered to be a part of the committee with past experience in such matters, and although he agreed with making a change to the dress code, he said the board may find some students will resist change at first.

"The older the student, the more precious the style of clothing is to them and their ability to express themselves through clothing. It's their identity and it is very important to them. This will not be an easy sell no matter what comes up," said Wiswell. "I would also like the freedom to take this effort and engage student bodies such as the Student Council."

Chair of the Board Kurt Webber expressed his feelings on enforcing uniforms and the elimination of distraction and a focus on learning by doing so, although the majority of the board agreed that the dress code would have to meet somewhere in the middle to be truly effective.

Board member Paul Blandford said he felt it was important to meet somewhere between rigid uniforms and full freedom of expression, and added if a dialogue is opened up early in the game, dress code changes are most likely to be embraced, or at least tolerated in the end by parents and students.

Webber said the board would start by involving the student body in all three schools to see where the discussion may take the dress code in the long run.

Martin Lord Osman
Varney Smith
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