Thursday, August 23, 2007

Students Forced to Wear Red, White and Blue Under New Dress Code

By Andy Gammill The first test of the new dress code in Indianapolis Public Schools went smoothly Monday as the district began enforcing the rules at its eight year-round schools. Administrators watched closely as students arrived Monday to ensure they wore white, navy or red collared shirts and dressy slacks or shorts. But they caught few dress code scofflaws. "This morning when we came in, we had 20 students that weren't in compliance," Longfellow Middle School Principal Phyllis Barnes said. "Then we got it down to nine that weren't completely in compliance." For Longfellow students whose parents couldn't bring the appropriate attire to school, teachers supplied clothing they had bought with their own money, or the students were placed in a discipline room for the rest of the day. In most classrooms, though, row after row of students wore the white, red and navy polo shirts. Superintendent Eugene White instituted the dress code, which is so strict that many refer to it as a uniform. Among the many types of clothing banned are jeans, T-shirts, jackets and anything with writing or designs on it. Shirts must be tucked in, and pants must be worn on the waist. White argued that the dress code would send a message that IPS had high expectations and help students to focus on their priorities. He has said this year the district will change how students dress, behave and learn. The true test will come Sept. 4, when the district begins enforcing the policy for all of its 36,000 students, including those at its seven high schools. District officials have lined up donations and support from township poor relief funds for students whose families can't afford the clothes. Many parents in the district have supported the policy, although students have grumbled. "I don't like it," said Phillip Lewis, 14, as he sat in social studies class at Longfellow. "They're ugly." But he and all of his classmates were in the uniform. At Donnan Middle School, Principal Dexter Suggs said only three or four students had violated the dress code. A boy stood outside the front office in the morning and changed from a T-shirt into a red polo shirt. As students walked down the hall, a few were pulled aside for minor violations, and students without belts were given yellow cord to tie up their trousers. The most serious violations there and at other schools were students wearing black shirts, which aren't permitted, or having small stripes on shirts. Administrators stood outside the front doors at Marshall Middle School and separated students who violated the dress code. About 30 were sent to the auditorium and required to call home for other clothes. Although everyone else obeyed the dress code, many remained unhappy about it. A boy in a white polo shirt and tan slacks took out his frustration as he walked through the front door and called out, "I can't wear this."

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