GRANBY – With the school year underway in Granby, the School Committee spent time at its August 30 meeting making the final changes to the Granby High School textbook and had a thoughtful discussion about the dress code.
Junior-senior high school principal Alison Jordan, who is in her first year as principal after serving in the acting role, joined the committee and began going through the manual one more time before moving on. approve the version for the 2022-2023 school year.
The only issue that emerged from the latest edition of the manual was the vocabulary used to describe a dress code violation. School committee member Stephanie Parent said the second section of the dress code part of the manual could lead to a slippery slope.
The second section of the dress code part made a distinction that shirts and blouses should cover the student’s abdomen.
“I know I’ve seen almost every back-to-school photo, that’s the style. How do we specify where this applies to make sure it’s equal for all students? It opens a slippery slope” , Parent said.
Jordan acknowledged Parent’s point, saying it’s been very difficult and if you go to any teen clothing store, the crop top type shirt exposing the midsection is all the rage for college girls right now. She noted that once a few weeks of school pass and the warm weather subsides, she also believes in the issue of outfits like this. The high school does not have an air conditioning unit for the building.
“We don’t target and look at children and call them. It’s also 97 degrees in our building now and it’s hot. I feel like for the first few days, yeah, everybody’s a fashionista right now, but in the next eight months they’re all going to be wearing sweatshirts and hoodies,” Jordan said. “There is a middle ground, but we have to meet the children where they are right now.”
Jordan added that everyone has their own opinion on what is appropriate and what is not and felt that it was difficult to apply this point in the manual due to student tendencies.
Parent responded and said it was almost exactly his concern for the wording of this rule in the dress code. She called the wording “very vague” and suggested it should be equal across the board or deleted because “blouses” in the wording specifically suggests women’s clothing and not men’s clothing.
Jordan agreed with Parent’s concerns and added that she hoped parents discussed their children’s clothing and presentation with their children before sending them to school, which Jordan said he had with his own daughter on the morning of the first day.
“So is it 2 inches or 4 inches from the abdomen? It boils down to an administrative description but within a few weeks I feel like it’s gone out of fashion. Is that the right answer? I don’t know not,” Jordan said. “I don’t know if I have the right answer. I guess other schools also deal with crop tops. It’s hard to ask when it’s scorching hot in the building for cover ourselves. We have to do it for everyone if we do it for one.
School committee chair Jennifer Bartosz reiterated the committee’s past discussions of the handbook that they did not want to appear discriminatory in any way through the application of the dress code and that the wording here could cause a problem if this point of the dress code was to be strictly enforced.
Jordan said she has yet to receive any negative feedback from parents indicating the school is targeting or discriminating against students. She added that the school uses administrative discretion to be flexible and fair, but is also always in a learning environment and must have a line for students.
“I’m a mom and when we talk to the kids we talk to them about how they look and what they’re wearing, but you walk a fine line with what your words are to them because they can take it in so many different ways,” Jordan said. “I try to talk to students like I would want someone to talk to my own child if they had concerns about what they were wearing.”
Superintendent Stephen Sullivan joined the conversation and said the norm in other parts of the manual regarding dress code was “substantial disruption”. He called the wording of distraction “tricky” and suggested using the word disturbance would be better for this specific issue.
School committee member Jill Pelletier agreed with Sullivan about the specific wording and said the two different words had two very different connotations, so she would be comfortable with using the disturbance. Jordan added that the global disruption is a global play, and the distraction feels like blaming a student.
“There are so many unique styles our kids have, and we always want to support their unique style,” Jordan said. “I’m happy to use the word disruptive or disruption.”
Changes were made to the manual to reflect the vocabulary used in dress codes, but there remained a problem with the remaining section regarding blouses and shirts covering the abdomen. Audrey Siudak, a member of the committee, said that if the school were to leave this section of the dress code, it could still cause problems.
“Fad or not, we allow it. If we allow one item, doesn’t that override the rest? asked Siudak. “If we’re going to be fussy, then fine, but if someone finds profanity on his shirt and a girl has his midsection, what’s the problem. If we’re going to be specific, it has to be consistent for everyone.
Bartosz agreed with the point about inappropriate shirts and added that the wording for blouses was more focused on women. Parent added that if they were to have a policy but say that due to trends it would not be fully enforced, then she felt there was no point in leaving it.
The committee agreed to this point and deleted the dress code section. Jordan reiterated the amount of words in the dress code describing disruptions as things like no underwear on a student, beachwear or profane shirts, she felt it was fine to remove the section on blouses. The committee also agreed that a clear difference between disruption and distraction is the number of students whose attention is diverted and the total impact on classroom learning. Jordan said the manual will be shared with families later in the week.