The next scheduled forum on Standardized School Attire (SSA) will be Thursday at 5:45 at Cascade High School, prior to the meeting of Bedford County Board of Education at 7 p.m. at the school.
This will be the second of four scheduled public forums on the contentious issue; the first was held last month at Liberty School. Anyone may attend any of the forums, regardless of where they live or where their children attend.
SSA will also be discussed by School Superintendent Ed Gray at tonight's Southside School PTO meeting, at 6 p.m.
SSA is more than a dress code but less than a uniform. The specifics differ from one school system to another, but the proposal which the local school board has placed on the table for discussion prohibits jeans and T-shirts and requires solid-colored shirts and pants (or skirts) in a limited palette of colors depending on the school. Shirts would have to be tucked in. They could bear no slogans, logos or other writing except a small brand logo or approved school mascots or logos.
At last month's public hearing, school board members hinted they might be willing to revise the draft proposal to allow younger children to wear jeans, considering that outdoor play can be rough on lighter-weight fabrics.
Proponents of SSA claim it creates a calmer school atmosphere, reduces class distinctions and gang colors. The school board has heard positive reports on SSA during field trips to several schools where it has been put into place. Opponents say those benefits haven't been proven and that SSA places unnecessary burdens on parents and teens.
Opponents say that existing dress codes are not being properly enforced and would eliminate some of the problems cited by SSA supporters. But SSA supporters claim it's actually easier to enforce SSA -- a relatively short list of what students can wear -- than a normal dress code, which can in some cases contain a long and constantly-changing list of what students can't wear.
Opponents say that SSA places a burden on parents to buy new clothing for their children, while supporters say that SSA-compliant clothing is actually less expensive than the clothing some teens choose for themselves.
Opponents also say the tuck-in requirement doesn't take into account students whose body shape or size makes it difficult to keep shirttails in place.
Last month's public hearing began with a strong showing by SSA opponents and seemed as if it were going to be overwhelmingly opposed to SSA. But then the second half of the comment period turned out to be dominated by SSA supporters. The end of the debate was marred when students who had been asked to model SSA-compliant fashions were, in two cases, wearing them in a non-compliant way (their shirts were not tucked in). Critics of SSA pointed this out, saying it showed how hard SSA would be to implement and enforce, but proponents of SSA claimed the shouts from the audience unfairly embarrassed the students.
After Thursday's forum, the next scheduled events will be Jan. 17, 2008, at Community and Feb. 11 at Harris Middle School. The board plans to take an up-or-down vote on SSA at its Feb. 21 regular meeting. If it is adopted, it would take effect in the fall of 2008 for the 2008-2009 school year.