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Davis Board of Education approves dress policy

The Davis Board of Education Tuesday unanimously approved a dress policy establishing rules for implementing school uniforms and allowing individual schools to decide dress and grooming expectations.

District officials stressed that sections addressing school uniforms do not indicate district endorsement or opposition to school uniforms."The major purpose of this revision is to put in place procedures that school communities could vote on . . . whether they want school uniforms," said Superintendent Darrell White. "(The policy) fills in the gap with procedures that make sense."

Proposals for school uniforms may be developed by a principal or school community council. At least one public hearing must be set, and the proposal must be voted on by parents.

More than 50 percent voter approval is required for a voluntary uniform policy. Mandatory policies require 66 percent voter approval.

Voter approval would be final, unless the principal or community council recommends significant changes.

Rules for uniform implementation were set "so the process doesn't become mired in controversy like it did last year," said David Doty, attorney for the school district who presented the policy.

A school uniform proposal at Mueller Park Junior High failed to garner two-thirds of the votes it needed to pass. Hard feelings developed on both sides of the issue, Doty said.

Board member Cheryl Phipps praised the new procedures but was concerned that most schools have no space for students wanting to transfer from a school mandating uniforms.

Doty said the district would be sensitive to such issues.

The policy also allows school officials to ban extreme clothing and cross dressing, exaggerated body piercing and exaggerated cosmetics. "Exaggerated" is for school officials to define, so long as policies are gender-neutral.

A reference to "gothic" clothing, which was not defined in the draft, was omitted "because we want the focus to be on student dress and appearance, not on group labels," Doty wrote in a memorandum.

A group of Viewmont students had complained about the item. Gothic clothing may consist of white face makeup and black clothing.

Doty noted the district's dress policy is in step with private businesses addressing issues such as body piercing in workplace policies. Such clothing is a matter of style, not free speech, Doty said.

Baggy pants, bandanas and hats are style, for instance, because their message is not specifically stated, Doty said. Some may view baggy pants as a gang signifier, while others view them as sloppy.

Political buttons or black armbands worn in protest is a matter of free speech and is not part of the dress code, he said.