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Natasha Sanders couldn’t wear this miniskirt or low-cut shirt to school. Skirts must be no shorter than 2 inches above the knee. The new length requirement replaces the former fingertip rule.
DAILY Photo Illustration by Dan Henry
Austin High senior Natasha Sanders couldn’t wear this miniskirt or low-cut shirt to school. Skirts must be no shorter than 2 inches above the knee. The new length requirement replaces the former fingertip rule.
Are High School rules
Simply strict . . . or just plain silly?

By Jessica Schneider
and Lauren Howard

DAILY Staff Writers

teenpage@decaturdaily.com · 340-2436

OK, OK. We get it. No guns, no smoking and no making out in school. But no plain white T-shirts, no understandable tardies or trendy tunics and not one stick of Orbit for that "just brushed clean feeling"?

rules2.jpg - 114010 Bytes
DAILY Photo Illustration by Dan Henry
Austin High senior Haley Garti would violate school dress code by wearing jeans with holes, showing her midriff and not wearing a belt.
Come on, in-school suspension for two tardies, D-hall for a shirt-tale spotting, threatened because of a few hugs and a quick kiss?

Students interviewed from Morgan, Limestone and Lawrence counties share this attitude.

"We have to tuck in every shirt, but some shirts are not made to be tucked in, like when they have beading on the bottom," said Austin High School senior Natasha Sanders. "We can't wear pants that have holes, even at the knee. But we can wear skirts and shorts — that doesn't make sense . . . the only thing I like is the whole no pants that are saggy and below the butt thing. I don't want to see anyone's underwear. And it's good they make you wear belts, because some girls, if they don't, and they sit down . . . you know."

School administrators have outlined outfit parameters to promote fairness, prevent students' confusion over outerwear — all to reduce interference with the educational process.

Decatur High School student Jennifer Neill understands. "I don't think there are too many rules. It's actually good there are rules. Some people would take advantage if there were fewer."

Her principal would agree.

Enforcing Class I offenses like dress code violations and tardiness, said Mike Ward, prevents more serious problems, like fighting in the hallways.

"Originally, the dress code was there for safety reasons. After the violence at Columbine and other places, police officers showed us how easy it is for students to hide weapons under T-shirts or trench coats. Also, you present yourself through what you wear — it's like at work, you wear certain clothes to work because they are appropriate," Ward said.

Neill has a couple of qualms.

"Some teachers are way too picky about food in class. I mean, if you're in high school, you should be able to handle having a little snack during third or fourth period. And the tardy issue, if you're in the room, you're there, you're not going anywhere. So why do you have to be seated to be counted as 'not tardy'?"

She can blame that on her peers' immaturity, according to Brewer High School principal Joe Lang's gum-chewing example.

"If students would keep it in their mouth, not blow bubbles or make noise, nobody would say anything. But there are always students who throw it on the floor, paste it under the table or smack it," he said. "If everybody would wear decent clothes . . . if they were given the freedom, we wouldn't have to have these rules, but unfortunately that's not how it is."

"I would say I'm pretty aware of what's allowed and what's not. Sometimes they warn you, but sometimes they just write you up," said Austin High sophomore Ryan Caldwell.

He and Ardmore High sophomore Skyler Sanderson both say the dress code is tougher on girls. Though Sanderson has never had dress code run-ins, girls' clothes are harder to judge.

"I have actuallly seen girls in the past that were long enough to pass the arm test (when the skirt must be longer than the fingertips) but for some reason they still thought it was inappropriate."

Decatur High senior Sandlin Cauthen said she respects teachers more who overlook the small stuff — like kissing her boyfriend goodbye in the parking lot after school.

"It's after 3 o'clock. The teachers say between (7:50 a.m.) and 3 p.m. is their time. So why can't Igive my boyfriend a kiss after school? That's not interfering with the learning process . . . High school kids are likely to rebel. If their parents are really strict, they're more likely to rebel. The same goes for teachers.

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