QHS updating "outdated" dress code

Quincy Public Schools Superintendent Roy Webb smiles as he talks with School Board member Jim Whitfield prior to Tuesday's Policy Committee meeting. Committee members heard about a simplified dress code proposal at Quincy High School. | H-W Photo/Deborah Gertz Husar
By Herald-Whig
Posted: Aug. 21, 2019 12:01 am

QUINCY -- A simplified dress code policy at Quincy High School will put the focus on learning and keeping students in the classroom.

The revision, outlined at Tuesday's Policy Committee meeting, follows an audit of the QHS student handbook, curriculum guide and staff handbook by Paul Gorski, founder of the Equity Literacy Institute and a national voice on equity issues.

"One thing he noted was our dress code was a little outdated. It mostly focused on girls, and the assumption under most of it was girls can't dress this way because boys can't handle it. That's not fair to boys or girls," QHS Principal Jody Steinke said.

"We do feel the current dress code is antiquated, and it's a barrier for some of our kids who are maybe at risk. We don't need another barrier for them to attend school," he said. "We prefer to simplify it and focus on learning, education and getting across the stage at Flinn Stadium the end of senior year."

Committee members favored the dress code revision which still must be approved by the School Board.

The revised policy still requires shoes to be worn and prohibits clothing and accessories that present a potential safety factor for the wearer or others and clothing and accessories "which are suggestive, include obscenities, depict hate messages and/or contain references to or depictions of alcohol, drugs and/or tobacco."

But it takes out references to specific types of female clothing, such as halter tops and strapless dresses/tops, as well as length requirements for skirt and shorts.

Students who don't follow the guidelines will be asked to change or modify their clothing.

The revision also allows hats in the building, but gives each teacher discretion on whether to allow hats in the classroom.

Hats previously had been prohibited at QHS, but a pilot program in the fourth quarter of the 2018-19 school year allowed students to wear hats. Staff overwhelmingly favored keeping the same approach this year, and an informal count during Tuesday's lunch periods found around 60 of the 1,800 students wearing hats.

School Board member and committee co-chair Jim Whitfield understands the "old school" philosophy against hats. But "we've got bigger things to worry about as to whether a young man or a young woman is wearing a hat in the building during the day," he said.

"A number of kids would rather leave the building than take that hat off. We've had it happen the last few years," Steinke said. "Let's focus on what matters. That's getting the kids in school, making sure they're in class and learning."

Committee member Nora Schnack said she had no issue with hats, scarves or other head covering but wondered who gets to decide what's suggestive student clothing.

The decision is subjective, Steinke said, but very few office discipline referrals are handed out for dress code violations.

"Things that come to school are oftentimes bad fashion choices as opposed to dress code violations. Like maybe you shouldn't wear that, but that's probably for a parent to talk about," Steinke said.

Also Tuesday, committee members reviewed policy changes proposed by the Policy Reference Education Subscription Service. Most of the changes were minor and the revisions will be tabled for a month, then adopted by the School Board in September.