School backs down on dress code policy

By Richard Greene | Published Saturday, October 24, 2015

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Usually once a year at school board meetings, the dreaded discussion over dress code starts.

Even the phrase “dress code” usually seems to cause a few gasps among trustees and administrators as they try to figure out the fine line between what is acceptable and what may cause a distraction. The result can become a cumbersome list that tries to cover every new fashion trend.

Richard Greene

Richard Greene

In the mid-aughts, Aubrey ISD faced this annual dilemma on the dress code. At first the answer was becoming a trendsetter in the area of mandating school uniforms. But that gave way to a standardized dress code that instead of telling students and parents what they couldn’t wear to class, specifically stated what was allowed.

At first there was questioning – enough to fill a side of the stands at the football field with the superintendent addressing the crowd in his thick New York accent.

But the dress code went into place, with students being allowed to wear polos or school sponsored T-shirts along with solid-colored shorts, pants or jeans. The straightforward policy fit on less than two pages, which was quite a change from years past.

Expecting a revolt on the first day when going to do a story on the new dress code, instead most of the students seemed to like it, saying it made getting ready for school easy. I can relate, wearing my near daily uniform of a Messenger polo and shorts. (Oh, the irony of a guy that got married in shorts talking about dress codes.)

After that first week, I never heard anything again about the standardized dress code. As a photographer, I didn’t mind it because you never had to worry about a student being appropriately dressed for a picture. Also, as pointed out by administrators, it’s easy to tell if someone doesn’t belong on their campus. They easily stood out.

But that quiet came to an end recently with a protest I never figured to hear. A former military member started a campaign against the school because his daughters were approached by school personnel about sweatshirts that had a large Air Force logos on them.

I doubt anyone was truly offended by the Air Force logo, but it was in violation of the school policy against shirts having logos larger than 1.5 by 1.5 inches and not being a school-sponsored shirt.

The issue became a brief national story as the parents thrust it into the spotlight. The school was portrayed by some pundits as unpatriotic and against the military, which as a former taxpayer of the district, I can say, was far from the case.

The rule was first put in place to avoid the distractions about different faith messages on shirts that might offend someone and keep the attention on the classroom with one less headache.

Aubrey ISD Superintendent Debby Sanders made a great point about the direction of the protest in her initial response.

“Aubrey ISD has a student dress code to follow, just as our military personnel are expected to wear uniforms,” Sanders said. “The dress code, which has been in place for over a decade, instills pride, discipline and levels the playing field for students to allow them to focus on learning.”

A chance for the lesson was missed here that we can’t always get to wear or do what we want.

Eventually Aubrey ISD backed down to allow the logoed shirts. Unfortunately, I’m sure more battles will follow.

Richard Greene is the sports editor of the Messenger.

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