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Clairton students can 'relax' heading back to school

| Tuesday, Aug. 20, 2013, 7:32 a.m.
Jennifer R. Vertullo | Daily News
Reviewing Clairton City School District's relaxed dress code on the district website with public relations specialist Alexis Trubiani, seated, are learning support staff member Zac Mathews, principal of discipline Deborah Marshall and kindergarten teacher Nancy DeMedio.

When Clairton students return to school on Thursday, they will have more freedom with their fashions.

Clairton City School District has done away with a strict dress code of collared shirts and dress slacks and replaced it with a policy that only restricts clothing choices from being inappropriate or dangerous.

“Parents didn't believe it,” principal of discipline Deborah Marshall said, noting she's been getting calls at home on the issue. “It was put out on social media that the dress code was changing. Students were aware, but a lot of parents were still apprehensive.”

Parents who participated in the district's Information Day on Aug. 15 were informed of the less stringent dress code, and others may review the policy in its entirety on the district website,

The new dress code policy includes the following guidelines:

• Shorts and skirts must be no shorter than fingertip length when the student's arms are placed at his or her side. Cheer shorts are not permitted.

• Jeans and pants may not have tears or holes above the knee. They are not to expose the student's underwear, and sag-styles are not permitted.

• Dress shoes, sneakers, sandals and boots are permitted. Flip-flops, slippers and slides are not.

• All shirts must have sleeves. Bare shoulders will not be permitted, including spaghetti straps, tank tops and backless tops. Students are not permitted to wear hooded sweatshirts.

• Clothing may not contain blasphemous, provocative or obscene photos, slogans or graphics. The clothing may not be imprinted with any promotion of alcohol, drugs, tobacco, weapons, violence or sex.

• Sunglasses, hats, bandanas and athletic headbands are prohibited in school. Spiked jewelry, chains and cords may not be worn or carried.

“Our expectation will still be that students dress in good taste and within reason,” Marshall said.

The new dress code is intended to allow teachers and administrators to focus more on education, as opposed to disciplining students for dress code violations, Marshall explained.

School board president Rich Livingston said district officials would rather see students spending their day in the classrooms' learning environment, rather than in the principal's office for dress code-related discipline.

“The dress code was a 12-year experiment,” Livingston said. “We were told it would increase achievement because kids could take their sights off what they were wearing to school and focus on what was going on in the classroom ... It became more of a struggle for our students.”

The dress code put stress on Clairton families, because parents were spending money on two sets of clothing — school clothes vs. everyday wear — and they were arguing with children over what they could wear to school, he said.

New in 2013-14, Clairton's alternative education program will be moved to the former Episcopal Church of Transfiguration in the city.

“In students' transition back into a traditional learning environment, it's better to serve Clairton students within our own district, as opposed to having them outside-placed,” public relations coordinator Alexis Trubiani said.

In their transition back to Clairton schools from outside alternative education programs, students in sixth through 12th grades will learn the core curriculum of math, reading, science and social studies in an alternate setting.

“They will follow a cyber curriculum with interaction and assistance provided by Clairton staff,” associate principal Debra Maurizio said.

Clairton is expanding its cyber program to include foreign languages, electives and Advanced Placement courses that aren't offered in the building. Those classes will be open to all Clairton students.

Jennifer R. Vertullo is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-664-9161, ext. 1956, or