Spring brings rise in dress code problems in Alabaster

Published 3:21 pm Wednesday, February 16, 2011

By NEAL WAGNER / City Editor

When the temperatures outside begin to creep upward in late February or early March, administrators at Alabaster’s schools know they will begin seeing increased student traffic in their offices.

The rise in temperature usually correlates to a rise in the number of students who attempt to bend or break the Shelby County School District’s dress code.

“Usually around springtime, students begin to wear shorts, and their skirts get a little bit shorter,” said Thompson Middle School Assistant Principal Bryan Jamison. “Some of the kids tend to take it a little too far.

“We don’t really see a lot of the muscle-type shirts or tank tops. There’s not a lot of that going on,” Jamison added.

As students shed the coats and sweaters and begin to bring out their spring and summer wardrobes, schools usually see some students with shorter-than-allowed skirts and shorts, hole-riddled jeans and sweatpants.

Keri Johnson, an assistant principal at Thompson High School, said dress code infractions at her school are usually not as serious as they are at other area schools.

“Our dress code violations are usually not horrendous,” Johnson said. “For the most part, our kids are pretty good.”

But both Johnson and Jamison said they occasionally must reprimand students who wear clothes and items in violation of the district’s dress code, especially when the weather changes from winter to spring.

“The season has a big impact on that. It’s more of a pattern in the spring,” Jamison said. “Across the board, I’d say I see an average number of kids who violate the dress code.”

TMS requires students to wear a belt and tuck their shirts in, and does not allow low-cut shirts, hole-filled jeans or short skirts or shorts. Those rules usually cause most of the school’s dress code violations, Jamison said.

At THS, baseball caps, revealing shirts and low-riding pants lead to the most dress code-related disciplinary actions, Johnson said.

“We follow the school district’s code of conduct, but we aren’t as strict as some of the other schools,” Johnson said. “We tell the guys to wear their pants where they need to be. If they are too low, we make them pull them up.

“We like for the girls’ shoulders to be covered up. Especially with the weather the way it is now, the girls like to try to wear spaghetti strap shirts,” Johnson said. “The big dress code things we focus on are so broad that they are pretty easy to follow.”

Both schools keep a year-round watch for students who attempt to get around the dress code, but the administrators said they take a realistic approach toward the problem.

“We had one kid today who had sweatpants on, so we made him change,” Johnson said. “That’s not to say there aren’t 20 others walking around who are in violation of the dress code right now, but you can only get the ones you catch.”

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.