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New Kensington-Arnold school dress code stuck in limbo

| Thursday, March 20, 2014, 1:11 a.m.

New Kensington-Arnold School District's dress code policy for next school year remains in limbo.

After some board members last month voiced skepticism over whether restricting student dress to collared shirts and khaki pants in limited colors would be enforceable or useful, proponents on Wednesday discussed easing some of the restrictions.

The draft policy offered in February would limit students to wearing polo or dress shirts only in shades of black, white, gray or gold and pants, shorts or skirts in shades of black, blue and tan.

However, board members now are backing off the color limitations.

Marilyn Claassen, who has been leading the dress code revision, and Laura Varner-Norman said the clothing style is more important to them than the colors.

Additionally, board member Jason Fularz suggested adding jeans to allowed items.

Board members, teachers and administrators remained divided during a committee meeting Wednesday on whether hooded sweatshirts should be permitted.

Officials associated with the elementary grades seemed to favor allowing students to wear “hoodies” while several high school officials favored banning them there.

Fularz noted any reconfiguration of schools, which has been proposed, may impact what is allowed where.

Board member Regina Namey said she'd like the language on the length of shorts and skirts to be changed from mid-thigh to knee-length to remove variability of length from student to student.

No recommendations were offered for improving enforcement of the dress code, which was board President Bob Pallone's criticism of both the current and proposed policy last month. He was not present Wednesday.

Proponents of a more uniform-like dress code have said strictly limiting student choices would lessen misinterpretations of the code and make enforcing it easier.

Claassen and other supporters have maintained that a stricter code would promote self-confidence, district pride and reduce disciplinary problems as well as be more affordable for parents.

“I want this to go through,” said Claassen. “I feel like I'm running and getting nowhere.”

Fularz asked all board members to send their recommendations to Superintendent John Pallone by April 2.

The policy committee plans to meet again at 6 p.m. April 7 to discuss the suggestions and hopefully revise a draft for presentation to the full school board on April 24.

Code of conduct under review

The policy committee is reviewing clarifications to the district's code of conduct policy that governs student discipline.

District administrators and teachers plan to better define levels of offenses and appropriate punishments. Those levels likely will differentiate between elementary and secondary students, something the code currently does not take into account.

Officials also are considering whether they can make disciplinary actions and documenting those actions more consistent districtwide in light of necessary differences amongst the schools.

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

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