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School dress code back up for discussion

August 26, 2018

Enforcing the dress code has been a continuous challenge since the first day of school Aug. 6. On that Monday, approximately 40 students at Lake Havasu High School wore “bottoms” — pants or shorts — that were torn or altered in some way.

While such fabric modifications may be fashionable, they are not permitted in the classroom, according to the Lake Havasu Unified School District’s dress code. The rules about the condition of pants, skirts or shorts are not new. They were first outlined in the student handbook for the 2017-18 school year. Letters were also sent to parents explaining the rules last year.

LHUSD School Superintendent Diana Asseier said that approximately 40 teens who showed up for the first day of school Aug. 6 deliberately chose to violate the rules, the result of a reported organized effort rooted in social media. For many of the students, it was their first offense at being “dress coded.” They each earned after-school detention. Both males and females were asked to change into appropriate attire.

On day two, Asseier said, a reported five students returned to the high school wearing “bottoms” that violated the code. Again, they were asked to change into appropriate clothing and received punishment.

At issue is what students of both genders wear from the waist down and the condition of the fabric of those garments. Rips, holes and frays are not permitted. The code specifically bans such modifications, largely because the openings are often strategically placed in immodest ways. Also, hemlines must have finished edges; no frays or fringe are allowed.

It is unknown why the “bottoms” issue is back on the table, but school board President John Masden wants to talk about it in an open meeting. Parents and students who want to discuss the school dress code are invited to do so at the Sept. 18 meeting of the district’s governing board.

“We want to have a conversation,” said Masden. He requested that the topic be added to the Sept. 18 agenda. The board wants to hear from parents and students who may either object to or support the code.

The board created the dress code but does not enforce it. That task is handled by school principals and staff.

The idea of requiring all students in the district to wear khaki bottoms is a proposal that both Asseier and Masden firmly reject. While it would solve the problem of trying to clearly define holes and frays and determine whether or not said holes and frays are intentional or accidental, the officials feel the requirement is extreme and unnecessary. Khakis-for-all moves too far away from student self-expression and too deeply into the territory of school uniforms, they said.

“Uniforms are too restrictive,” Asseier said. “We want to give (students) a variety, from skirts to shorts to pants. They need some freedom to dress how they want, in a way that’s comfortable for them.

“I’ve been to all the schools, and really, our kids look great. They look like they’re ready to learn,” she added.

Masden repeated the reasoning behind the existing dress code, adding that it applies to both genders and doesn’t single anyone out.

“We wanted to find middle ground (for students). Their professional title is ‘student’ and their clothing should reflect that. The code helps students dress in such a way that raises self-esteem from feeling good about how they look,” he said.

The Sept. 18 meeting of the district’s governing board is at 6 p.m. at 2200 Havasupai Blvd.

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