- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Seek to limit’distractions’

Detroit schools are contemplating cracking down on student appearance with a strict districtwide dress code that would require students to cinch their belts, lengthen their skirts and take out those nose rings.

Detroit Public Schools leaders have circulated a proposal to require specific colors for shirts and slacks: white, blue, black, yellow or pink tops paired with khaki, navy blue or black pants. Hats, clothing with logos and hooded jackets would be out.

Knee-length skirts and collared shirts or turtlenecks would be in. Facial jewelry and visible body piercings, including tongues, wouldn’t be allowed, although it is not clear whether the ban would apply to ear piercings.

Although the plan has yet to be taken to the board, a new dress code could take effect as early as fall for the district’s 129,000 students, administrators say.

“We have people who are not in proper dress,” said Juanita Clay Chambers, the district’s chief academic officer. “We hope by eliminating those distractions, we will be better able to focus on learning.”

The new wardrobe standards may not stop with students. Board members, who ultimately would approve any dress restrictions, said they would like to see teachers and other staffers have standards, too. School administrators are drafting a proposed staff dress code.

“If students have to have a dress code policy, then there should be one for employees,” said board member Jonathan Kinloch, who heads the committee that could take up the dress code discussion as early as this month.

Detroit Federation of Teachers President Janna Garrison said that any dress code for the staff would need to be a part of the contract bargaining process.

“They can bring it to the table,” she said. “We can discuss it.”

Although he said there is “no rush” to pass new restrictions, Mr. Kinloch said, some type of updated policy is needed, in part to address gang activities tied to specific colors or types of clothing.

Mrs. Chambers sent the proposal to principals and plans to get their feedback, as well as some from parents and students, before she goes to the school board with a specific policy.

A growing number of other big-city school districts have opted for uniforms in the past 10 years, saying they have heard anecdotal evidence of an increase in student achievement and fewer fights.

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