Warmer temps bring spike in school dress code violations

By NEAL WAGNER / City Editor

Every year, Riverchase Middle School Assistant Principal Susan Hyatt knows when she will see an influx of students sent to her office because of hole-riddled jeans, short skirts or sweatpants.

The first days of school in August and the initial period of warm spring weather in February or March usually brings out the highest number of students willing to challenge the school district’s dress code.

“We usually get a lot of violations at the very beginning of school before we can really lay down those ground rules,” Hyatt said. “Usually at the beginning of spring it becomes a problem again because they’ve forgotten what happened at the beginning of the year.

“Once we set the groundwork and let them know what is expected of them, it’s not much of an issue,” Hyatt added.

The winter months usually do not bring many dress code infractions in the county’s schools, but Alabama’s spring and summer temperatures tend to encourage shorter-than-allowed skirts and dresses and lower-than-allowed shirts on female students, Hyatt said.

“The skirts and dresses can’t be too short. That’s one of the main problems we have,” she said. “Sometimes girls will wear shirts that are too low. We have some issues with that, too.”

In recent years, school administrators have had dress code issues with students wearing “jeggings,” which are skin-tight leggings designed to look like blue jeans.

“They are basically leggings that are made with stretched denim,” Hyatt said. “The kids want to argue that they are jeans, but they are not. They’re really just leggings.

“I would like to have a talk with the person who invented those,” Hyatt said with a laugh.

But school dress code violations are not exclusive to female students. Some inappropriate school clothing comes in the form of torn or hole-filled jeans, sweatpants and baseball caps.

“The kids are not allowed to wear sweatpants unless it’s a school-sponsored event, like if the whole football or basketball team had a game that night and they wore their warm-ups to school,” Hyatt said.

“And they can’t have holes in their jeans. That’s a big problem,” Hyatt added, noting boys also are required to tuck in their shirts.

Students and parents sometimes get the wrong message when the school reprimands a child for violating dress code, Hyatt said.

“Sometimes parents get upset because they think we are saying their kids are not dressed appropriately,” she said. “The kids can be dressed appropriately, but still be in violation of the dress code.”

Because schools report limited dress code problems, the Shelby County School District has not considered requiring student uniforms in more than a decade, according to district spokeswoman Cindy Warner.

“I can’t think of a recent time that (uniform issue) came up,” Warner said. “I’m sure if there was a particular school that wanted to do it, and they had valid reasons to support it, that’s something that would be entertained.

“We would certainly weigh the pros and cons of it before making a decision,” Warner added.