Monday July 25, 2011

BENNINGTON -- Mount Anthony Union High School is putting an end to the pajama party.

Prohibiting pajamas and slippers are two of the additions the high school is making to its dress code for the fall in an effort to put students in the right frame of mind to learn.

"One of the things that made us want to re-evaluate [the dress code] is it was to a point kids were coming to school wearing pajamas and slippers. It's a safety hazard, certainly with slippers, and it also says something to the work ethic. Like anything else, if you get yourself into a mental state about something you're going to be more prepared to work, and if you come to school in pajamas you're prepared for something else," said David Beriau, associate principal.

Another addition to the list of a dozen offenses "fashion police" will stop students for is "clothing that is excessively tight so as to be provocative."

Beriau acknowledged it may be difficult to determine what crosses the line making clothing provocative, but said the school is going try to make sure underwear isn't showing and students are dressed in a way they would show up for work.

"We're dealing with trying to reinforce civility, if not initiate it, so we want the clothing to be a statement that these are kids coming to school with respect to each other, themselves and the school and set a tone that is going to be conducive to learning," he said.

The school is also making students cover up more by enforcing straps on tops of at least 1.5 inches wide.

In recent years the school has prohibited spaghetti straps, muscle shirts, and tube tops or halter-tops, but Beriau said the 1.5 inch criteria was added because students found new, creative ways to abide by the dress code but not the intent -- such as wearing tops with numerous thin straps.

"The straps have to be an inch-and-a-half and it has to be a single strap," Beriau said. "We really don't want to have any kind of underwear showing, so that's why we want to have more coverage and that should include the back and the front. It should be respectable."

The last new addition prohibits bandanas and colors that "could be associated with either a criminal enterprise or gang affiliation."

Previous dresscode measures are still in effect. Among other things, they prohibit wearing clotheswith offensive or inappropriate messages; hats, sunglasses and hoods indoors; jewelry that may pose a threat of physical harm; skirts that do not extend to mid-thigh and shorts with less than a 4-inch inseam.

When revising the dress code, Beriau said administration looked at student handbooks from across the country to see what other districts do. The new guidelines attempt to "address issues of good taste and be sensitive to people's rights and perspectives," he said.

Enforcing the dress code is the responsibility of everyone at the school as well as parents and students, Beriau said. Teachers and members of the staff are expected to send students who do not meet the dress code to the administrative office when they see a violation.

On first offense, Beriau said the administration will ask the student to change clothes if the student has a change at school, or the students' parents will be asked to bring a change of clothes.

If a student cannot get a change, the student will be required to do their school work in administrative offices. "We can't send a message that it's OK to do this," Beriau said.

If dress code violations become a re-occurring problem for a student, the administration will set up a meeting with the student's parents to resolve the issue.

Beriau said he also hopes parents will try to monitor what their teens are wearing to school.

"We're relying on parents to help us have students come to school ready to learn and not necessarily drawing attention to themselves for their clothing," he said.

Beriau said the school has to update its dress code every so often as styles change.

"We have to adjust as fashions become more pronounced. For example, years ago nobody would come to school in pajama bottoms," he said.

The complete dress code is located in the school's student handbook.

Contact Dawson Raspuzzi at draspuzzi@benningtonbanner.com