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Thursday, May 5, 2016

Last SSA forum scheduled Tuesday

Monday, February 11, 2008

The last of the scheduled public forums on school attire -- and the first since revisions were made to the proposed policy -- is scheduled for 6 p.m. Tuesday at Harris Middle School.

Bedford County Board of Education is scheduled to vote on the issue later this month.

Last month, the board revised its working document on Standardized School Attire; the most notable changes, though not the only ones, would be allowing plain blue jeans and applying the dress code only to grades 6 and up.

The draft document would still prohibit T-shirts in favor of collared shirts (which could mean a golf-type shirt, a dress shirt, or even a turtleneck). In addition, excessively embellished or ornamented jeans, or distressed jeans, would not be allowed.

The board is now referring to its proposal as a "student dress code" rather than by the term SSA.

The board had released its first draft proposal -- largely based on the rules adopted for this school year by Metro Nashville -- last October, and held public hearings on it in November, December and January. Those public hearings drew sharp criticism of SSA from students and parents.

The working draft which is now being considered was drawn up after the school board's annual planning retreat in January.

School board members stressed that it's still not a final document and could be revised even farther if necessary.

Proponents of SSA, under whatever name, claim that it creates a more conducive atmosphere to education and has additional safety benefits.

Opponents say the benefits aren't borne out by scientific study and that the policy unfairly infringes on students and families.

SSA opponents say that the schools should do a better job of enforcing existing dress codes, but SSA supporters say that SSA -- a relatively short list of what can be worn -- is simpler and easier to enforce than a dress code, which often consists of a long and constantly-updated list of what can't be worn.

Indeed, efforts to loosen the original SSA proposal may end up complicating things.

The rule that shirts must be tucked into pants, intended to prevent distraction from the gap between low-riding pants and short tops, had drawn criticism from those who said that some overweight students or students with certain body shapes find it hard to keep their shirts tucked in. The board revised the rule slightly. Students would be able to wear a T-shirt, tucked in, as an inner layer and would then be able to wear a collared shirt, untucked, as an outer layer -- provided the un-tucked shirt had a squared-off hem and was designed to be worn untucked. Such untucked outer shirts could go no lower than 2 inches below the belt or no lower than the top of the pants pockets.

The board also allowed lightweight outerwear, as a result of complaints that some classrooms are uncomfortably cool. Heavy outerwear would still have to be put away and could not be worn to class. Hooded sweatshirts could be worn, but the hoods could not be worn on the head while the student is indoors.