School district considers alterations for sleeveless attire

Jennifer Garrido, Lifestyles Editor

Spring has sprung and it’s time to throw on a tank and jeans. The freshman confidently steps off the bus, only to be stopped by the principal who tells her that her shirt is inappropriate due to its lack of sleeves.

This would be the experience of all Brevard County high school students — both male and female — if the School Board moves forward with a suggested dress code revision to ban sleeveless shirts. In fact, one Brevard County high school already has put this plan into action.

“Dress code has always been and always will be an issue. I applaud Merritt Island High School for going through with what they believe will work for their school,” Principal Rick Fleming said.

Sleeveless shirts stir controversy because they often reveal bra straps which are referred to as “undergarments” that “must not be shown,” according to the district’s dress code.

According to School Board member Amy Kneesy, Merritt Island came up with the idea on its own for a stricter dress code, and the decision does not yet affect other Brevard County high schools.

“Everyone can take a sigh of relief because no action is going to take place yet,” Kneessy said.

“The Board is simply going to gather data this year to see if it could possibly work for the year to come.”

The School Board plans to extract data from Merritt Island’s reviews and reactions, as well as from the annual district-wide client survey.

“The survey is approximately 30 questions asking parents how satisfied they are with their child’s education experience,” Kneessy said. “We plan to add a question asking the parents if they would be interested in a more restricted school dress code. If they are, the Board will consider it, if not, then we won’t, but as of now, it’s up for discussion.”

In order to revise the school dress code, not including revisions issued by the School Board, the Advisory Committee of that school must agree as a whole on the decision at hand.

The committee consists of six elected students, three selected faculty, three parents chosen by the principal, and the principal acting as chairman.

“School dress codes are hard to change,” Fleming said. “I don’t think I’d go as far as Merritt Island High and ban sleeves, but maybe a stricter dress code is what we need.”

Fleming bases this idea in part on the school’s change in administration for the past two years. After the dean’s position was eliminated due to budget cuts in 2009, former Dean Jacqueline Ingratta was re-located, giving Fleming an opportunity to realize a major difference in dress code efficiency.

“Since we lost Mrs. Ingratta, we haven’t been as strict in dress coding students,” Fleming said. “That’s not our primary goal.”

However, Fleming does see the need for a stricter dress code as styles and norms continue to move forward.

“Our young ladies are notorious for short shorts, low-cut tops and bra straps showing,” he said. “Undergarments do include bra straps, and they shouldn’t be showing at all.”

But Fleming’s urge for a more strictly enforced dress code does not mean that he expects to follow Merritt Island’s lead in banning sleeveless tops.

“We’re not going to do anything yet at our school,” he said. “We’ll just see how it goes for them.”