Milford's dress code policy has been a topic of conversation for months.

The school dress code: Still a hot topic in Milford 

Jarek RutzHeadlines, Education

Milford's dress code policy has been a topic of conversation for months.

Milford’s dress code policy has been a topic of conversation for months.

Some Milford School District parents and students showed up to the district’s board meeting this week to once again express dismay about the student dress code policy. 

“My biggest concern is that I feel we are addressing and making our dress code policy bigger than our academic policy and bigger than behavioral policies and that just should not be,” said Melody Mackert in Monday’s meeting. 

Mackert has two children currently in the district and one child who graduated from Milford High School. 

“There are bigger issues other than the fit of a pair of pants or the material of a pair of pants,” she said, “and that would be the academics and the learning of our children.”

About 10 public comments Monday were directly opposed to the dress code. They came a month after a group of 200 people circulated a petition asking the district to ban uniforms, saying they are an unnecessary and burdensome expense. 

RELATED: Milford parents petition to loosen dress code

The district has pointed out there are no uniform requirements, but there are rules that describe  and what children are not allowed to wear.

“We should be modifying this dress code policy to a much simpler one that could address the major concerns that we all probably – as parents, as educators and I’m sure as board members –  have,” Mackert said. “None of us want to see children coming to school dressed inappropriately. That is not anybody’s agenda here. I believe the agenda is more so that we want options for our children and not to be so restrictive.”

A junior at Milford High said she’s opposed to the dress code and believes students should be able to wear whatever makes them comfortable so they can focus on learning. 

She said last week she, her twin sister and others were cited for dress code violations for wearing leggings and sweatshirts. 

“I feel as if students should be able to come to school comfortably instead of wearing collared shirts and khaki pants,” she said. “I believe the uniforms make students feel invisible.”

Dozens of students wear the exact same outfit every day, she said. 

“As children, we’re always told to express ourselves individually and stand out, but with a uniform, we’re sadly unable to do that,” she said. 

Nicole Hall, the mother of a sophomore and one graduate, said the dress code policy disrupts not only learning, but the relationships between students and staff. 

“My daughter told me about feeling so nervous about what she was putting on in the morning and coming through the building and what was going to be said to her,” Hall said. “That’s something that needs to be factored in, how that is affecting their mental status and absolutely anxiety is going to definitely decrease learning.”

There’s two types of comfort: physical and mental, she said. Both are crucial for students to feel good about themselves and to have a productive day.

“It’s been mentioned a number of times that we’re a Title I district,” Hall said. “I mean, our students qualify for free breakfast and free lunch, and then we’re putting this burden on parents of this restricted and limited dress code.”

Title I districts are those in which children from low-income families make up at least 40% of enrollment. The school district then is eligible to use Title I funds to operate schoolwide programs that serve all children in order to raise the achievement of the lowest-achieving students.

Hall said her son went thrifting to buy some cheap, affordable clothes, and he can’t wear any of them to school because they don’t meet the dress code.

Mackert said the code needs to be simplified.

“We’re up to almost 20 stipulations that we now have in our dress code policy,” she said. “It could probably be dwindled down to four or five.”

Sarah Smith said the dress code appears to be open to interpretation, which is problematic.

“It states cotton bottoms are acceptable, but when my child received a written referral on the third day of school, I inquired about why she could not wear elastic bottoms,” Smith said, “and I was told that sweatpants are not allowed, but I didn’t ask about sweatpants. I asked about elastic pants.”

When she asked administrators to define sweatpants, she was told. “Well, my opinion of sweat pants is blah, blah, blah.”

“I spoke to three different administrators and I got three different answers, so how can you enforce something when you start with, ‘My opinion is’?” she said. 

She noted that some hoodies are acceptable, but if the same material is used for pants, it is unacceptable.

“Where’s the allowance for girls that are bloated or menstruating? Where’s the allowance for gassy boys in the morning?” she said. “Kids sit all day and are uncomfortable, and the point of school is to learn.”

The policy is hypocritical, she said. 

“When you have [professional development] days, teachers attend those meetings in sweats, leggings, comfortable elastic waist shorts,” she said. “Why? Because they’re seated all day and it’s uncomfortable to sit in pants that have buttons and belts that are fitted. Elastic waists are more forgiving.”

She asked the board members – to no response – how many of them were wearing elastic pants in the meeting because they’re more comfortable.

“I’m pretty sure we have bigger issues to deal with than putting constraints on clothes parents can buy for their children,” she said. “Not to mention the monetary resources that schools are wasting battling dress code issues. These are our tax dollars and you are wasting them on dress code referrals and meetings with parents, which speaks to poor mismanagement of our tax dollars.”

Parent Michael McCain said studies show uniforms don’t improve academic achievement. He cited research from the National Library of Medicine and Ohio State University.

“Many students are unlikely to wear the uniform during summer and weekend seasons, meaning that most parents will have to buy students two different wardrobes for both uniform and non school times,” he said, “which could lead to things such as struggling to buy said uniforms for low-income families.”

By reducing a student’s ability to express themselves through clothing, the policy makes it harder for them to identify common interests with others and make friends. 

Members of the board assured the audience that the district is developing a committee to review and potentially make recommendations for the dress code policy. 

“Please know that the district hears you, and we are going to be working with you on a resolution moving forward,” said Bridget Amory, district superintendent.

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