By Mary Spicer
Conneaut School Board is considering a dress code. A clearly-defined dress code. And even though it may ultimately be said that students would have a more, well, uniform appearance, no one is talking about school uniforms.
At this point, the dress code put into place by Sharon Area School District about four years ago is being used as a starting point for Conneaut’s discussion.
Under the five-page code, which can be accessed through Sharon’s district website, sharon.k12.pa.us, permitted and prohibited apparel is clearly defined.
For example, tops must have collars, no more than the top two buttons may be unbuttoned on any style of collared shirt and they must be a solid color. The only acceptable colors are orange, black, white and gray.
Bottoms, which also must be solid in color, are permitted in black, “ranging from light charcoal to dark charcoal as well as basic back” and khaki. Period.
Other areas covered by the policy include school-sponsored T-shirts and sweatshirts, hosiery, dresses and jumpers, footwear (closed toe only), religious exceptions, hair (color, including highlights, must be within the spectrum of color that hair grows naturally), jewelry and accessories (no head coverings or body piercing other than permissible types of ear piercing allowed) and gang-affiliated attire/accessories.
Accompanied by Conneaut Area Senior High School health and physical education teacher Mary Beth Jacobs, a delegation of 12 CASH students made an appearance before a recent school board work session dressed in a Conneaut version of the Sharon code. Because CASH school colors are blue and white, for example, blue tops were substituted for Sharon’s orange option.
Jacobs, a graduate of Sharon High School, stressed that she and her students are talking about tightening the dress code policy, not establishing a policy requiring uniforms.
“We took a field trip in November to Sharon. A bus load of board members, the superintendent, teachers, students and parents. We went and observed,” Jacobs, a member of the Conneaut faculty since 1980 who has been exploring dress code options for several years, recalled during a recent interview with the Tribune. “Most thought it was very interesting but not necessarily what they thought it might be. It was a pleasant surprise. They thought they would see all the same person. That’s not what we saw at all.”
“I liked it,” a female student model told the school board during the presentation, noting that the school made a very good impression when she walked through the door. “It makes everyone look prepared to be at school.”
A male student noted the “professional” appearance of students changing classes. “Walking into Sharon was completely different than here,” he said. “It just looked so much better. It looked like everybody was ready to learn.”
There was some agreement among participating students that they’re embarrassed by how people look when they arrive at school. “Lots of clothes are smaller than they should be,” one remarked.
“Come and stand in the hall with me and watch some of the stuff that goes in and out,” Jacobs agreed.
Board member Carol Bocan remarked that she recently spent a day at CASH. “I was shocked at some of the clothes I saw,” she said.
Superintendent Jarrin Sperry noted that Sharon also has a strict dress code for faculty.
When board member Gina McCauley observed that the district has dress codes that aren’t enforced, “some of ours is really gray,” Sperry replied. “This one is pretty much black and white.”
While Sperry freely admits that some board members are supportive of a more defined dress code, some are not; a small committee consisting of administrators, board members, parents and students is being formed. “Let’s look at what’s out there and see if we can build a dress code everyone can live with,” he explained. “We’ll be doing that in April.” Current plans call for the committee to bring its recommendations to the board in May. If there’s going to be a change, Sperry said, it would be implemented this fall.
At this point, according to Crawford Central School District Superintendent Charlie Heller and PENNCREST School District Connie Youngblood, beefing up the dress code simply isn’t on the radar in either neighboring district.
Mary Spicer can be reached at 724-6370 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.