Survey says: Revamp old dress code
Members of the West Allegheny Dress Code Committee, after spending months researching and conducting surveys, have come to a conclusion - they have more work to do.
The surveys passed out to school district staff, parents and students have been tabulated, and the results show the district population favors revamping the current dress code rather than developing a new one.
Respondents also noted they aren't sure whether the current dress code is being enforced at all.
Middle school Principal Janet Walsh chairs the dress code committee, created in November to address concerns about whether the district's 3,264 students are dressing appropriately for class. About 20 administrators and other employees, parents and students are on the committee.
The fact that a majority of the respondents were unsure if the current code was working was a red flag for Walsh.
'That concerned me, the committee and the administration,' she said. 'We don't have enough facts and figures ... things are a little bit cloudy. We want to see if what we have right now works.'
Walsh said the committee will make its final recommendation to the school board in the spring.
Based on the survey results, she said, the committee is leaning toward a stricter or more defined dress code - and not uniform dress such as the neighboring Sto-Rox School District has adopted.
A total 2,296 forms were returned to the dress code committee. The six-question form was handed out to 1,941 students in grades 4-11, and about 1,619 of those were returned.
Only 139 of the 233 teachers turned in their forms, and 538 parents filled them out.
Walsh said she and other committee members believe vague wording in the current dress code is causing confusion between teachers and students. The code uses words such as 'decency,' 'inappropriate' and 'common sense.'
As she presented the results to the West Allegheny School Board on Wednesday, Walsh proposed that the district spend the upcoming academic year enforcing the current code.
That way, the committee can figure out which areas are vague.
'We need to get across to the staff that we need them enforce this. We need to communicate with students and parents that this code is going to be enforced,' Walsh said.
She said the committee wants to show how much time is spent addressing dress code issues, instead of educating students.
'We want to be able to show that instead of educating kids, how many times are we talking to kids about obscene shirts or other articles of clothing,' Walsh said.
'Before changing anything, we want to be able to say to those people who say they don't know if the current system works that, 'We tried.' We have work to do before we come before the board asking for anything to be changed.'
School directors at the meeting said they agreed with Walsh, and thanked the committee for its efforts so far.
Board member Carl DeCarlo said he too was concerned that the survey respondents didn't seem to know whether the code was enforced. But he said he wondered whether they really didn't know - or just didn't care about the dress code.
Treshea N. Wade can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (412) 306-4531.