The next scheduled forum on Standardized School Attire (SSA) will be Jan. 17 at 5:45 at Community High School, prior to the meeting of Bedford County Board of Education at 7 p.m. at the school.
This will be the third of four scheduled public forums on the controversial issue. The first was held in November at Liberty School, while the second was last month at Cascade. Anyone may attend any of the forums, regardless of where they live or which school their children attend.
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, collared shirts along with 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.
School board members have indicated 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 in the Nashville and Chattanooga areas 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 to buy and care for 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.
At the Liberty School forum in November, both opponents and supporters of SSA spoke, but the Cascade forum last month featured all negative comments about the program.
After next week's event, the final forum will be 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.
The Times-Gazette's complete coverage of the issue, along with other SSA-related links and contact information for school board members, can be accessed at www.t-g.com/topic/ssa .