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Brentwood Middle/High School officials take look at dress code

| Wednesday, Sept. 11, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

Forget the old “fingertip length” rule. Brentwood Middle/High School officials are clarifying measurements that acceptable skirts or pairs of shorts need to meet this year.

The 2013-14 student handbook updates school dress policy, putting more precise definitions into clothing restrictions that in the past were vague, high school Principal Jason Olexa said.

“It was too subjective,” he said. “We tried to make it less ambiguous.”

Discussions over the summer about simplifying the code policy led to the updates, which were explained to students at class meetings during the first week of school, officials said. Parents contacted school officials in the first week of classes to express concerns, but once the reasoning was explained, they seemed to understand, Olexa said.

One rule that required sleeveless tops to have straps at least two finger widths wide was changed, to require that straps measure at least three inches, or the size of a standard Post-it note.

“My fingers are different from yours, which are different from Sally's. We changed it so that it was the same for everyone,” Olexa said.

The same went for the requirement that skirts and dresses be at least “fingertip length.” Now, hems must be four inches above the knee, and in the mid-thigh range, or longer.

“Fingertip length can be very different from one kid to the next, depending on their stature,” middle school Principal David Radcliffe said. “Our goal is to create an environment that's good for learning. We want the kids to be able to focus on education while they're here.”

Undergarments, sleepwear and clothing that “appears provocative” or contains profanity or violent words are not allowed, the handbook states.

“We'd like to have everything covered,” Olexa said. “We're not a night club. We're not the mall.”

School officials put new restrictions on purse sizes this year. Book bags have been banned in middle/high school hallways for many years, Radcliffe said, noting they were not allowed when he started in the district in 1999.

“The purses were just getting larger and larger,” Radcliffe said.

“We tried to get away from those giant suitcase type things,” Olexa said.

The concern was that purses, if left in an aisle, could cause someone to trip, and there also were worries about items that could be brought to school in the bags.

“We've spent a ton of money and have done a lot of upgrades to make sure this building is safe, so we just want to make sure we're doing everything we can,” Olexa said.

Brentwood Borough School District has an over-arching dress policy that has not been updated since 2006. The district-wide policy allows each building principal to create his or her own dress code rules.

Students who violate the Brentwood Middle/High School dress code could be given one to five demerits, the handbook states. Administrators also can send a student home to change.

Brentwood school officials stressed they did not make many changes, but clarified rules.

“There were certain things in the dress code that were more clearly defined,” Superintendent Ronald Dufalla said. “It was to give students more direction.”

Stephanie Hacke is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-388-5818 or shacke@tribweb.com.

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