Lake Havasu School Board will consider clothing rules at April 16 meeting

April 5, 2019

The dress code policy for the Lake Havasu Unified School District will be revisited by the governing board at its April 16 meeting. The issue was placed on the upcoming agenda at the request of newly-minted board member Lisa Roman. She began serving her four-year term in January.

Roman brought the subject up at the end of the board’s March 21 meeting. There were audible groans and sighs from the audience when she mentioned it. Historically, the district’s dress code policy has been a point of contention. Some feel it is too strict while others believe it is too liberal.

“I’d like to revisit the dress code next month just as a review,” Roman said at the meeting. “It’s a policy that’s been brand new this year and I think we should take a second look.”

On Wednesday, Roman said the students’ standardized T-shirts aren’t the issue.

“It’s the bottoms,” she said.

According to the policy, students are not permitted to wear pants that have holes or are torn and frayed. Short-shorts are not permitted. Shorts must be at least fingertip length on the wearer.

“Over the past several months, I’ve received feedback from parents, teachers, administrators, and students about the current dress code,” Roman said in an email. “Their concerns warrant another look at the policy. I’m hoping that our school board, with input from all stakeholders, can craft a more efficient policy for the 2019-2020 school year. Maximizing instructional time is my primary goal, so I’d like to see a dress code that keeps more students out of the principal’s office and in the classroom.”

School board member John Masden reached out to Havasu residents a week ago through a public forum online to solicit feedback on the dress code. In one post, Masden provided some history.

“The shorts then became an issue in 2016-17. The students literally cut the front of their jeans open in 2017-18 because they didn’t want to wear shorts when the fingertip rule came back and the administration asked for the rule to change to no rips, holes, frays and tears above the fingertips. The board…went to the whole bottoms. The policy actually is the same policy from two short years ago…” he wrote.

In another post, Masden shared statistics which he said were obtained from Lake Havasu High School.

“I had a chance to chat with a high school administrator yesterday in depth on this issue. The anecdotes given were that there were more warnings than actual detentions given on this subject,” Masden wrote. “Even more interesting was that 89 boys given detention for dress code violation. That compares to a total of 224 total dress code detentions for the year.”

At Thunderbolt Middle School, Principal Mari Jo Mulligan said punishment for “bottoms” dress code violations is less severe.

“A student gets a warning. When they come to the office, we have PE shorts they can wear and then trade them back in at the end of the day. Dress code violations are not a discipline issue for us,” Mulligan said.

At Thunderbolt, the problem is usually tied to shorts that are too short. In the current school year, there have been 76 dress code violations at Thunderbolt – all girls.

“We’ve never had a boy,” violate the code, Mulligan said.

Governing board President Kathy Cox is keeping an eye on the calendar with regard to the dress code policy.

“We need to approve the student handbook by May so it can be printed in time for the next school year,” she said. Meeting a print deadline means the dress code policy must be approved in the next two months. In the meantime, she’s looking for feedback.

“I want to hear what the principals are recommending first. And I hope young people know we are interested in what they have to say. In the past when we’ve had dress code discussions, I was impressed by how respectful and articulate the students and parents were. This time, there could be trends that we don’t know about,” Cox said. “Maybe our policy needs to be tweaked.”

The Lake Havasu Unified School District governing board meets April 16 at 6 p.m. at the district office, 2200 Havasupai Blvd.

Pam Ashley can be reached at 928-453-4237, ext. 230 or pashley@havasunews.com.