Board unanimously approves new school dress code

Board unanimously approves new school dress code

CUMBERLAND – A new dress code is now officially in place for Cumberland schools, where students are celebrating relaxed restrictions they say will keep them more comfortable and make it easier to learn without distractions.

Committee member Karen Freedman, at a meeting last Thursday, May 9, praised a dress code she described as being more equitable toward both male and female students. This policy is empowering for students, especially young girls at the high school, letting them know “that if you speak up for something and you believe it, you might just make change happen,” she said.

Freedman acknowledged former member Amy Goggin for getting the ball rolling on the changes and current policy subcommittee member Mark Fiorillo for his countless hours researching and working toward a fair and gender-neutral policy.

Member Steve Hess countered criticism that the policy isn’t teaching students what it’s really like to be part of society by saying that the opposite is actually true. It tells students that “rules can and should be applied fairly and equitably,” regardless of gender, that comfortable clothing doesn’t define someone or impact their ability to learn and engage, and that it’s OK to have one’s own judgment and style, he said.

The revised policy also sends the message to students that individualism is not a crime, added Hess, that rules should be updated to reflect changes in society, and “precedence is not equal to permanence.”

Rejecting notions that this policy won’t teach students how to properly dress in the workplace, Hess said students learn early that varying circumstances call for certain levels of dress. This dress code accounts for modern fashion realities and varying body shapes, he said.

Kenzie Freedman, Karen’s daughter who helped push the new changes, urged the committee to pass the new policy prior to the vote, saying it will “make students at the high school very happy.”

As reported by The Valley Breeze last month, the dress code crafted by Fiorillo is intended to end debates about rules of dress. Gone are controversial inclusions such as requirements for shoulder straps measuring the width of three fingers, references to cleavage, or mandates that clothing reach the “mid-thigh.”

In many cases it gets away from being overly specific about situations, making simple pronouncements such as that the buttocks should be covered at all times. Yoga pants no longer have to be covered with a tunic or dress. Halter tops and muscle shirts, as well as halter sundresses or short skirts, are now allowed. Ripped pants are also allowed.

All students should be able to dress comfortably for school and engage in the educational environment without fear of or actual unnecessary discipline or body shaming, states the policy.

Fiorillo emphasizes that the revised dress code no longer blames certain students for the actions of others.

The full dress code has been posted on the School Department’s website, said Fiorillo.

A couple of points needing extra consideration prior to approval last week related to the length of skirts and whether slippers should be allowed. Ultimately, Fiorillo told The Breeze on Monday, both matters are addressed through broader rules. Instead of requiring skirts or dresses to reach the mid-thigh, the language simply states that the buttocks should be covered at all times, including when a student is sitting or reaching for something.

“It’s about the same length, we just won’t have that vague average standard that doesn’t apply to anybody,” he said.

On slippers, he said, school officials believe those are now covered under a requirement that clothing be safe and not able to inflict damage. Slippers can be seen as an item causing a slipping hazard, he said.