Wednesday, June 27, 2001

Highlands Middle School panel OKs dress code

By Ray Schaefer
Enquirer Contributor

        FORT THOMAS — The two parents, two teachers and two administrators who make up Highlands Middle School's site-based decision-making council approved the final version of a dress code Tuesday, but at least one parent threatened a legal fight if school officials do not back off.

        Robert Blau, a lawyer whose 11-year-old daughter Amanda will be a sixth-grader, has already drafted a lawsuit he said he would file in U.S. District Court in Covington if the council or Fort Thomas Schools Superintendent Larry Stinson did not suspend the code.

        Mr. Blau said the code is not a good idea because it serves no educational purpose; would be arbitrarily enforced; would be psychologically harmful to children who come to the middle school from less restrictive elementary schools; and would put children in danger because pedophiles and other predators could easily identify potential victims by style of clothing.

        “I will appeal back to the council,” Mr. Blau said. “After that, I go to the superintendent, and after that to the U.S. District Court if I don't have positive results.”

        Mr. Blau suggested suspending the code until a survey of parents is taken, but middle school principal Mary Adams said it was too late in the process for that. She said teachers have authority to interpret all school rules, but said no child would be prevented from coming to class because of a dress code violation.

        Ms. Adams also said she would check into the legality of offering parents the opportunity to opt out of the code.

        The council, made up of teachers Edith Mariani and Judy Manning, parents Margo McMurray and Mary Peterman, incoming middle school principal Jerry Wissman and Ms. Adams, decided last month to install the new code in a one-year trial. It will be reviewed in November and March.

        The code takes effect with the new school year at the new middle school building. Among its provisions:

        • Clothing that fits neatly and is not form-fitting or baggy.

        • Pants, shorts, skorts and skirts in either navy blue, black, any shade of khaki or white, and solid-colored shirts of any hue.

        • No writing except for Highlands logos, and other logos are limited to the size of a quarter.

        “I don't think this is going to limit (students),” Ms. Manning said. “We've given them a lot of choices.”

        Besides the council, 11 people attend Tuesday's meeting at Highlands High School.

        Jeff Wyatt, whose son will be a seventh-grader at the middle school, said the code would be like a new tax.

        “You'll never get rid of it once you pass it,” Mr. Wyatt said.

        Ms. Mariani said teachers frequently wasted as much as 10 minutes of class time last school year to get students' attention if a student wore something form-fitting or otherwise provocative.

        “We can say if kids aren't being distracted, that could be a positive effect,” Mr. Wissman said.


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