Woodford County

Woodford County High reaches consensus on dress code

Maggie Sunseri, 16, a junior at Woodford County High School, sought changes in the dress code.
Maggie Sunseri, 16, a junior at Woodford County High School, sought changes in the dress code. gkocher1@herald-leader.com

Teachers, parents and administrators came to a consensus Monday night on a compromise dress-code policy for Woodford County High School students.

The school’s decision-making council gave first reading to the revised policy, and the council plans to give final approval at its Dec. 14 meeting. Principal Rob Akers said the new policy will take effect in January for the school’s 1,275 students.

Parents and students began calling for changes in the school’s 11-year-old dress code at the start of classes in August, and the controversy went viral on social media. More than 6,500 people signed an online petition on Change.org seeking to modify what was called an “outdated” dress code, but many of those people didn’t live in Woodford County.

The new dress code includes changes sought by students, including Maggie Sunseri, 16, a junior who produced a documentary in which females alleged gender bias. The documentary had more than 323,300 views on YouTube.

Maggie said Monday that she was satisfied with the new policy.

“I’m really glad we came to a compromise,” Sunseri said. “I think it was a great learning experience. I think it just shows kids that if they’re really passionate about something, they should just go out and make it happen. If they don’t agree with something, then they shouldn’t just sit idly by. They should go out and make positive change.”

Maggie said fellow students are “excited that we’re getting a more lenient code.”

I think it just shows kids that if they’re really passionate about something, they should just go out and make it happen.

Maggie Sunseri, student at Woodford County High School

Under the current code, a student must wear a rounded crew-neck shirt or a button-down shirt that may have only the top button open. Shirts must not expose the collarbone. Shorts and skirts must be knee-length or longer.

The new code says, “Necklines shall not droop any lower than the shortest dimension of a credit card (2.125 inches) positioned at the base of the collarbone.”

In addition, “shirts and dresses without sleeves are permitted, but straps must be at least the width of the shortest dimension of a credit card.”

Also, “no tank tops, racer-back tops, halter tops, tube tops, spaghetti straps, etc., are permitted,” the new code says.

Students may wear jeans, khakis, slacks, capris and sweatpants of any color, but they “must be free of any holes, rips or tears that expose the skin or undergarments,” the new code says.

In addition, “leggings and yoga pants are permitted but must be worn with a top, shirt, hoodie or sweater that extends below the fingertips with arms fully extended at the side, in the front and back.”

Skorts, shorts, skirts and dress hemlines must “extend to the shortest dimension of the credit card from the top of the knee.”

Sheer, transparent or semi-transparent materials “are prohibited unless worn over a dress code-appropriate garment,” the new code says.

A student will get a warning for a first offense. Penalties including detention will become more onerous with each successive offense, and a fourth offense will result in suspension.

I think it’s more of a nod to what current fashion is.

Rob Akers, Woodford County High School principal

As under the current code, teachers will not take measurements but will send students to the office, and the principals will make the final decision.

Administrators will not take measurements, either, Akers said. “We’ll have a method for them to be able to self-assess,” he said.

Students will look at themselves in a full-length mirror to make that assessment, Akers said. He said the new policy is viewed as better by all parties, “because it’s seen as a bit of a compromise.”

“I think it’s more of a nod to what current fashion is,” Akers said. “We’re trying to help students and families out a little bit with a compromise. ...We listened to our community. We tried to make some adjustments to try to meet them halfway with what they wanted. ...We met a lot, probably more than people thought we should, but we did get to a point where we have something we can all live with.”

Stacie Dunn, whose daughter was sent to the school office in August, said she was pleased with the new policy.

“I think it’s a much more realistic dress code,” Dunn said. “I think it allows kids to dress in more modern styles, not just T-shirts and blue jeans.”

Asked what students should learn from the three-month discussion about the dress code, Dunn said they should know that “it’s not okay to follow rules blindly.”

“But it’s also not okay to change the rules the wrong way,” Dunn said. “You’ve got to do it the right way. Maggie’s made a great example of the right way to do this. But if you see something that’s not right and it needs to be changed, then you need to stand up and you need to ask for change.”

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