ShareThis Page

New Ken-Arnold committee recommends school uniforms

| Wednesday, Feb. 5, 2014, 12:11 a.m.

A New Kensington-Arnold dress code committee plans to make a recommendation to the school board that students be required to wear fitted khaki-style pants and collared shirts next school year.

The committee, led by school board member Marilyn Claassen, has met four times since the fall. On Tuesday, it nailed down some suggestions they'd like the board to begin to consider, perhaps as soon as its Feb. 27 meeting.

Tentative plans include requiring all students, from kindergartners to high school seniors, to wear collared polo shirts or button-down dress shirts. They would be limited to one solid color, either black, white, gray or gold.

Acceptable bottoms may include black or khaki pants, knee-length shorts and skorts (a combination of a skirt and shorts).

No jeans or sweatpants would be allowed.

All clothing would need to be fitted properly — no baggy pants sitting below the waist or tight leggings.

Head coverings including hats, hoods or bandanas would continue to be prohibited, as would flip-flops or any shoes without at least a strap over the heel.

Although students would be able to layer sweaters, blazers or zip-up fleece sweatshirts over their shirts, the committee was leaning away from allowing hooded sweatshirts.

There was some debate whether elementary students should be allowed to wear the hoodies as long as the hoods are down.

The committee was divided on whether denim or sweatpants should be allowed for kindergartners who often spend some class time on the floor.

Valley Middle School Assistant Principal Todd Kutchak said the more options the board allows, the more students and staff will have to interpret the rules — likely leading to enforcement problems.

Several teachers at Tuesday's meeting agreed, saying they'd like very specific guidelines.

A few parents who were present indicated support for the changes as long as district staff enforce the policy — something they said is too lax now.

Claassen had about a half-dozen students of all ages model some sample clothing from retailers including J.C. Penney, Target and Kmart.

Claassen said most of the outfits were available for $20 or less.

Students still were able to show individual style with their choices of jewelry, headbands, shoes and socks.

Several benefits touted

Claassen and Superintendent John Pallone said there are several benefits of implementing a more limited dress code — including financial savings for families, improved morale and possible behavioral improvements.

They referenced an earlier presentation by McKeesport Area High School administrators, who said behavior and morale improved when they implemented a similar dress code last school year.

Board member Liney Glenn said she'd like New Kensington-Arnold administrators to follow McKeesport's lead in terms of enforcement.

McKeesport students are screened as they enter a building to ensure they're following the rules. Anyone seen violating the dress code is quietly taken to an area where they can either wait for parents to bring acceptable clothing or choose from a stash of clothing the district keeps on hand.

Glenn said by not allowing the students who violate the policy to cause a distraction and get attention, it will take away much of the desire to push the boundaries.

Although Claassen said most students and parents she's talked to about the policy have favored the changes, Pallone noted the relatively low turnout at the committee's meetings. He warned there may be more objections as the process of changing the policy progresses.

He said the next hurdle will be seeing if a majority of the school board supports the changes.

“We have a little bit of a sales pitch ahead of us,” he said.

Liz Hayes is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-226-4680 or

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.