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Dress code dilemma

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In order for freedom to have real meaning, the people who enjoy it must act responsibly. That principle applies even to the kind of clothing — or lack thereof — worn to school.

The Jordan Board of Education has commissioned a committee of parents, students and teachers to find a balance that gives students freedom of expression regarding their clothing while prohibiting clothing that is disruptive.

For example, a number of high school girls are wearing belly shirts, strappy tops and skimpy shorts to school while some boys show up with wild-colored hair and pierced faces.

As Riverton High School student body president Krissi Christiansen noted, "immodesty is definitely a problem."

The committee has been studying legal cases pertaining to school dress as well as contacting schools around the country.

Among the options the committee presented the board were banning insignias that are crude, sexually suggestive or depict drugs or alcohol; spaghetti straps, midriffs and clothing that reveals cleavage or upper thigh; and hair colors and styles so extreme they disrupt class.

Some schools have tried solving the what's-proper-to-wear-to-school dilemma by instituting school uniform policies. School uniforms have long been a staple of private schools in order to foster a better academic atmosphere.

Utah's public school uniform policies, however, can't be mandatory. Parents, by law, have the right to exempt their children from wearing them. And when a significant number of parents opt out of their school's voluntary uniform policy, the policy is basically useless.

That's what happened, for example, at Rosamond Elementary School in Riverton, where 412 of 640 families opted out of sending their children to school in uniforms.

Given that background, the Jordan Board of Education is wise to involve students as well as parents and teachers in trying to craft a policy that will receive widespread support.

Surely, a policy could be approved that gives students considerable latitude as to what they wear while ensuring that their selections do not disrupt the educational process.

Just as in many other areas of social and cultural exploration, the attitude of the parents is critical. They can help minimize the problem by insisting that their children wear only clothing that meets the school dress code.

The Jordan Board of Education is facing a substantial challenge. It is to be commended for the way it is going about meeting it.