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District's dress policy not working, panel told

Published September 30. 2011 05:01PM

Could Palmerton Area School District be headed for a standardized uniform policy next school term?

That was one of the options that was explored at a Palmerton Area School Board Policy Committee meeting on Thursday.

Several district administrators, school directors and building principals gathered to review the district's current dress policy.

Mary Brumbach, principal of S.S. Palmer/Parkside Education Center, said the dress code hasn't been an issue in either of her buildings.

"I don't think children at the elementary level are seeking independence," Brumbach said. "I believe what's happening at the senior high school is the blatant defiance of authority."

Christine Steigerwalt, principal of Towamensing Elementary, said there's been "minimal concerns with the length of tops, and from parents with the length of shorts."

Thad Kosciolek, junior high principal, said the main issues of concern are "mainly tops, fraying."

However, it is at the high school where the vast majority of infractions have occurred since the school year began.

Superintendent Carol Boyce shared statistics that were gathered by high school administration with those in attendance.

Boyce noted there were several primary areas of concern: torn, cut, or ripped clothing; inappropriate tops; improper footwear; and see-through garments.

From Aug. 30 through Sept. 16, Boyce said there were 72 infractions that pertained to torn, cut or ripped clothing; 54 for inappropriate tops; 28 for improper footwear; 16 for body piercings; 15 for skirts/pants worn at a length more than 3-inches; seven each for spandex and exposed undergarments/nightwear; six for outerwears being worn; and four for oversized or too tight clothing.

Boyce said it was the policy committee's task to make recommendations to the board for potential changes to the current policy.

High school Principal Kathy Egan said the matter has become much too big of an issue for it to continue in its present state.

"We feel we need to have specific language," Egan said. "We do not want to have to play interpretation."

Darlene Yeakel, policy committee chairperson, said it's evident the current policy hasn't worked out as planned.

"We felt we had arrived at one (policy) that would be workable," Yeakel said. "We're going to give it one more shot, because these teachers cannot be taking all this time (to tend to the dress code)."

Resident Tiffany Christman said she believes the portion of the dress code that refers to clothing that is ripped, torn, or cut is the biggest matter of subjectivity.

Director Susan Debski said that no matter how the policy is worded, there are bound to be infractions.

"The problem I have here is the time management issue," Debski said. "It will still be subject to interpretation."

Senior Kalyn Lehr told the committee that as a student, a concern of hers is see-through garments that she's observed teachers wear.

"I have three different sets of clothes out in my car, and in the morning, I'm having anxiety attacks over what to wear," Lehr said. "I'm trying to get out of Palmerton as quick as I can."

Resident Gail Lutz said there needs to be guidelines so that the matter doesn't become an all-day affair.

Resident Jonice Tracy said she believes it's "clear administrators want a uniform policy."

"How do we know these are infractions? When someone walks into a room, you know if something's appropriate or inappropriate."

Debski said that rather than point fingers at administration, the public's anger should instead be directed at the board.

Resident Michele Allen questioned whether the district truly wanted to uphold the purpose of the policy.

"Frayed clothing doesn't go to the safety and well-being," Allen said. "It's almost discriminating against socio-economical status."

Resident Lori Burke said the matter should lend itself to two words: common sense.

"I almost feel like we were better off two years ago with the dress code; it's almost like we opened up Pandora's Box," Burke said. "It's almost to the verge of ridiculous."

Resident Serena Russo said she's upset her daughter received two violations.

"I don't even know how to dress my own kid," Russo said. "I'm thinking of pulling my daughter and putting her in cyber school."

Debski said the policy is too flawed, and suggested the board look to approve a standardized uniform policy in the near future.

"I cannot see the common sense behind a policy that doesn't work," Debski said. "It's ineffective."

Yeakel said the board has previously heard arguments for and against a uniform dress code.

"If it's good for the students, then it's good for the staff," Yeakel said. "We're getting tired of the same old excuses."

Further, Yeakel said the number of dress code violations needs to be reduced, and suggested that if the number of infractions isn't down to zero by Oct. 31, the board would need to look at a standardized dress for the 2012-13 school term.

Kosciolek said the matter has become "very frustrating to deal with," and added that he's in favor of a uniform policy.

"Unless you go to a uniform policy, it's going to be impossible to police," Kosciolek said. "I'm tired of dealing with it; I'm just looking for a solution so that we don't have to deal with it day-in and day-out."

Boyce said the list of recommendations from the committee would be shared with the board. The matter is likely to be discussed at a board workshop scheduled for this Tuesday.

The dress code policy may be viewed on the district's website,

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