School scrutinizes attire – from head to fingertips (at least)

School scrutinizes attire - from head to fingertips (at least)

In addition to Fairmont’s hat rule and other longstanding dress code guidelines, administrators are paying a lot more attention to whether students’ short are longer than the tips of their fingertips. Not everyone is pasing the test.

For years, Fairmont High School has had a dress code, but until lately it has been somewhat loosely enforced, with the exception of the no-hat rule.

But that phase of loose enforcement left with the advent of the new school year. Since late August, principals have asked a multitude of girls and guys to change into school-appropriate attire if they were wearing clothing that violated the dress code.

While many students have taken the rules enforcement in stride, others are puzzled or outright angry about the whole situation.

The no-hat rule

Fairmont forbids students to wear a hat inside the school, except in special situations usually associated with spirit activities. Principal Dan Von Handorf says the hat rule isn’t even remotely a new rule. “I can’t think of a time when I was at school where wearing hats was allowed,” he said. “I’ve also been here for 14 years, and that’s always been the rule here. Even way back when I was in school, students weren’t allowed to wear hats.”

Despite the rule’s longevity, some students still question why they’re not allowed to wear a hat and some believe the rule is necessary.

Sophomore Taylor Meade, however, feels the school hat rule is an excellent idea. “Hats can cause a distraction, and a hat could block you from seeing. Also, what if someone comes to school wearing a ridiculous hat that you can’t stop looking at?” said Meade.

Not only to do some students feel the rule helps prevent distractions, others find different reasons to like the rule. “Wearing a hat in school is disrespectful, and teachers don’t want to disrupt their lesson by telling a student to stop playing with their hat,” said sophomore Cassie Loughman.

But sophomore Joe Harris sees no value in the hat rule at all. “I feel the rule is kind of stupid. The teachers are probably just worried about not seeing our faces and us turning around and doing something stupid,” said Harris.

Senior Ryan Brodowski says he understands why the hat rule exists, but he still strongly believes it’s unconstitutional. “The law is breaking our freedom,” he said. “We have freedom of religion, so I don’t understand why we can’t have the freedom to wear a hat.”

Math teacher Diane Koehler offers a teacher’s viewpoint on the absence of hats. She said she likes the rule because it helps students focus in class more. “There’s a time and place to wear a hat and school is not one of them. Plus, we’re trying to train students for adult life,” she said.

How long are your arms?

The hat rule at Fairmont isn’t the only clothing concern students and teachers have. The school handbook states that clothing may not reveal undergarments and must cover the midriff, abdomen, stomach and back. In addition, students may not wear jerseys or tank tops or shorts that fall above a student’s fingertips. This means when a student puts her hands at the side of her legs, her shorts must at least reach the end of her fingertips.

While Meade supports the no-hat rule, she dislikes some other aspects of Fairmont’s dress code. “I think the dress code is a little over-exaggerated with the finger- tip rule. It’s really hard to find shorts that meet the standards of this requirement,” she said. “And I think we should be allowed to wear tank tops. It’s annoying having to wear a jacket when it’s a hot day.”

Junior Kayla Baker agrees with Meade. “The shorts rule is unreliable. It relies on the length of people’s arms, so it’s hard to find anything to wear except jeans.”

Public vs. private schools

Fairmont High School, a public school, offers what many believe is a considerable range of clothing freedom for its students. Private schools, however, have more stringent rules, including school uniform requirements.

Because Fairmont is not a private school, some students feel some school clothing regulations go against their rights as students in a public school. Harris is one of these students. “The school hat law isn’t constitutional because we’re not in a private school and we should be able to wear what we want,” he said.

Others, such as sophomore Kerrianne Ryan, dislike the dress code for other reasons. “I think it’s unfair because sometimes it’s hot, and we should be allowed to wear what we want since we are in a public school,” said Ryan.

Some students may feel the dress code goes against their rights, but Von Handorf believes it’s absolutely constitutional. “You have rights as a citizen, and one of these rights is a free public education. Having dress codes is part of the overall structure to make sure that kids have a good, healthy place to come and learn,” said Von Handorf.

Fairmont’s Activities Coordinator Jenny Borchers also believes the dress code is reasonable. “I think the dress code is fair and provides a lot of optional self-appearances,” she said.

Why the crackdown?

Much of the talk about the dress code enforcement this fall has revolved around the question: Why are administrators enforcing the rules so strongly this year?

Borchers provides her opinion about this recent crackdown. “Sometimes principals aren’t able to catch all the students wearing inappropriate clothing,” she said.  She believes the administration is trying to push consistency in addressing the issue.

Von Handorf said that last spring and over the summer of 2010, administrators decided to take the dress code into more consideration because of the increase in students wearing inappropriate clothing. It’s hard to imagine that students are unaware of the stricter attention to dress this fall. Letters went home to parents, several announcements were made about the closer enforcement, and teachers were urged to refer students for violations.

So why do some students still continue to wear inappropriate clothing to school?

Ryan shared her thoughts about why students might rebel against the dress code. “Students probably do this because they think it’s unfair, and that’s why I do it sometimes. I don’t leave my house looking trashy, so I don’t see any problem with what I’m wearing,” she said.

But Von Handorf makes no apologies for the dress code enforcement. “We talk about Fairmont being friendly, welcoming and inviting to kids, and also that it’s a good place to learn,” he said. “Things like no hats in school and the dress code are important pieces. We want students to be excited and most importantly, we want them to love their school.”