School District talks dress code: Belts, hoodies, end to tucked in shirts

The Osceola County School Board is looking at making district-wide dress codes a little more, well, uniform.

Schools across the county adopted a uniform policy in the 2008-09 school year in part to receive funding through a Florida grant fund. That state initiative no longer exists, but dress codes in Osceola County do, though enforcement and specific rules vary widely from school to school.

On Tuesday, School District Superintendent Debra Pace asked School Board members to consider enforcing the policy more consistently while implementing a few new changes.

The discussion was spurred by safety concerns, said Pace.

“Items like sweatshirts and hoodies… sometimes make it difficult to identity them as students on our campus,” she said. “A more consistent uniform policy would allow us to more readily identify the folks who are meant to be on the campus.”

Highlights of the discussion included:

• Shirts would no longer need to be tucked in.

• Belts would no longer be necessary.

• Undergarments cannot be visible.

• Hoodies – or hooded sweatshirts without a zipper down the front – would need to be removed upon entering campus and while in classrooms.

• Approved hoodies with school logos on the front may be an exception.

• No hats.

• Khaki or denim pants, shorts or skirts.

• Polos or collared shirts.

Pace, who said School Board members would have the final call on new policy changes, said eliminating belts and tucked-in shirts might make it easier for school administration to enforce dress codes.

“This can be a challenge…as students move into middle and high school and become more self-conscious of their body shapes and sizes,” Pace said.

The superintendent added that the idea is not to inflict strict discipline on students by issuing detentions or suspensions. Instead, making kids change out into “school appropriate” clothes at the office or similar measures should suffice.

Hoodies were a major sticking point. Currently, most schools only allow hooded sweatshirts with a zipper down the front, but some discussed permitting the items as long as they have a school logo on the front. Other ideas were also discussed.  

“There’s also a common sense piece to this, too,” said School Board Member Ricky Booth. “Yes, I want there to be consistency, but I also want principals to be able to make those decisions.”

School board members were content to allow a pre-existing dress code committee to meet over the summer with teachers, administrators and parents as representatives to discuss any other tweaks.

Any final changes will need to go through a formal policy making cycle, Pace said. Then the rules will need to be clearly communicated to students and parents before school starts again in the fall.