Granite City students will no longer have to wear a specific uniform to school beginning in the fall.
In 2009, District 9 approved a policy requiring students to wear khakis and collared shirts as a uniform. But as of this fall, that policy will be relaxed, and students will be permitted to wear a wider range of clothing at school, including T-shirts and blue jeans.
Specifically, jeans must be worn at waist level and not ripped or torn. No sleeveless shirts will be allowed, and wallet chains and dangling belts are forbidden. No flip flops, roller shoes or cleats are allowed, and laced shoes must be tied.
The board based the new dress code on the “the seven B’s” that should not be visible: bras, bellies, bottoms, backs, bandanas, boxers and bedroom attire, according to Superintendent Jim Greenwald.
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“We are not going to allow people to wear anything inappropriate,” he said. “We’re not going to have a uniform, but we will have a dress code.”
Other restrictions: Hair must be of natural color and not disruptive to the educational process. No hats, hoods or sweatbands may be worn. Body jewelry is not permitted except for hair, hand, ankle or earlobe; body piercing is limited to the nose and ear. Contact lenses must be clear or of a natural eye color and shape.
Religious exemptions are available based on a sincerely held religious belief regarding the dress code, according to the written policy.
We are not going to allow people to wear anything inappropriate. We’re not going to have a uniform, but we will have a dress code.
Granite City Superintendent Jim Greenwald
Greenwald said the process of reconsidering the uniforms began about two years ago as a suggestion from Granite City High School Principal Daren DePew, and a committee was formed to re-examine the policy. Administrators, teachers, parents and students met to discuss the policy and proposed ending it in favor of a less-rigid dress code.
The proposal didn’t survive the committee review for the District 9 school board last year, Greenwald said, but this year, they were asked to present it again with some modifications. This time it passed, and was approved by the full board.
Greenwald said the uniform policy was fairly strict, and students could end up being sent to the office for wearing a sweatshirt over their polo shirt.
“Is that the type of thing you want to send 30 kids to the office for?” he said. “(I’m) not blaming anyone, but I really do think it got away from us a little bit.”
DePew said the uniforms didn’t really have much of an impact on discipline or bullying issues as hoped. The primary area where bullying is taking place is online, he said.
“I know a lot of people feel everybody being dressed alike creates nobody making fun of each other… but we didn’t change because what we were doing wasn’t working in a terrible fashion, but just felt it was time to offer not only those choices but some others as well,” Greenwald said.
Other schools in the metro-east that have a uniform policy include Belleville East and West high schools and East St. Louis public schools.
Greenwald said initial response from parents has largely been positive. “I know in talking to a few parents ... they said, ‘What are we going to have to do, buy new clothes?’ And that’s not the case,” he said. “Those polo shirts and khakis will (still) be acceptable. It’s really going to offer more choices. I’ve had a lot more positive comments than negative from parents.”
Greenwald gave DePew credit for the analysis and recommendation to turn the uniform policy into a less-restrictive dress code.
One consideration in the decision: the cost of vouchers. Whenever a school district requires school uniforms, Greenwald said, it legally must provide vouchers to allow low-income families to purchase the uniforms. On the most recent school report card, Granite City has a 70 percent low-income rate, calculated by the students who qualify for free and reduced lunch.
“I really do think it’s going to offer better choices and give families the affordability to buy what they really want,” Greenwald said.
Granite City also was hit hard in the winter flood. Many students’ families were displaced by the floodwaters and lost belongings, including clothing. Greenwald said the school worked with families to help those students replace their clothes, and the faith-based community also helped out the families.
Still, Greenwald said the change initiated within the school, not out of protests from parents or students. “We really did not make a change because what we were doing wasn’t working in a terrible fashion, but just felt it was time to offer not only those choices, but some others as well,” he said.
On Tuesday there will be a voluntary after-school meeting for staff members to review the new dress code, and that evening at 7 p.m. there will be an open house in the high school performing arts center for parents to find out more, Greenwald said.