Uniform for all? – GHS dress code tightened; elementary uniform policy abandoned

Gilroy High students chat at lunch. Under the GHS dress code,

– As Gilroy High School students stroll campus hallways on this
first week of school, the administration is making sure they are
not revealing too much skin. In particular, girls are showing fewer
bellies this year as GHS cracks down on provocative and
gang-related clothing.
By Lori Stuenkel

GILROY – As Gilroy High School students stroll campus hallways on this first week of school, the administration is making sure they are not revealing too much skin. In particular, girls are showing fewer bellies this year as GHS cracks down on provocative and gang-related clothing.

GHS is using new posters to show students exactly what types of clothing are appropriate for school. The posters are helping Principal Robert Bravo and staff at GHS actively enforce the school’s long-standing dress code for the second year with positive results.

“I want to praise the students,” said Assistant Principal Mani Corzo, who deals with discipline issues. “It’s been working real well. The students have been really cooperative.”

The new posters depict examples of what clothing is inappropriate. A male wears a T-shirt endorsing alcohol and has boxers clearly visible above the waistband of his pants, while the female wears a miniskirt and a low-cut halter top that also shows her navel.

The posters point out what areas on the models need improvement and describe what types of clothing are acceptable. The guidelines can easily be referenced by students; The posters hang in each classroom, and a copy was sent home to parents at the beginning of the school year. Parents also received a description of the dress code in early August to prepare them for back-to-school shopping.

“I think a lot of kids appreciated that we were just trying to follow through on what our policies were,” Bravo said.

When students come to campus out of compliance with the dress code, they may be sent to the discipline office by a teacher using a pocket-sized version of the poster to indicate what area of the code has been violated, Corzo said. For first violations, students are loaned appropriate clothes in some cases. On the second violation, the student will be further disciplined – often given the job of picking up trash after school – and his or her parents will be notified by the third infraction.

“(Schools) don’t want students to have distractions, we want them to know what they’re there for,” School Board President Jim Rogers said.

The biggest dress code problem on campus is girls wearing Britney Spears-inspired tops that reveal their midsections, but Corzo predicted the problem would lessen as the year progresses.

During lunch period on the first three days of school, Corzo brought about 10 dress code violations into the discipline office each day. Most of those were for female students wearing revealing clothing.

“We want to create a professional atmosphere,” he said.

One student, Ivana Benevento, was cited during lunch Wednesday while waiting for a friend in the office. Her skirt was deemed too short and her tank top too low cut. Skirts must reach the middle of the thigh and necklines must not be lower than one inch below the top of the armpit.

“I don’t see a problem with halter tops, tank tops and skirts that show your thigh,” said Benevento, a junior. “You just have to look respectable.”

Most students do follow the dress code and always have, Bravo said.

GHS student Craig Kabert said he never has a problem abiding by the dress code.

“Some kids just make a big deal about things that aren’t a big deal,” he said.

Nonconformity in uniform policy

Elementary schools in Gilroy Unified School District have a uniform policy, with an opt-out option and free-dress days on Fridays. The uniforms usually require navy or black bottoms with tops in the school’s colors.

“(Wearing a uniform) is a high priority because it shows unity, it shows a pride in your school, and it makes it much easier for us parents in the morning,” said Michelle Montez, a volunteer parent at Luigi Aprea who coordinates parents’ purchases of the uniforms.

Some schools strongly encourage parents to have their child wear a uniform, while others are open to letting parents and students decide.

At Rucker Elementary School, about half of the students wear uniforms, with more students in the fourth and fifth grades opting out, said Principal Stephen Gilbert.

“Often times they are wearing them in kindergarten and the lower grades,” he said. “Once the parents decide they want to stop the uniforms, they usually don’t go back.”

To opt out of the uniform policy, parents must notify the school in writing. Rucker’s uniform is more relaxed than some other schools, as students are allowed to wear jeans and T-shirts as long as they are school colors. For Rucker students in and out of uniform, the district dress code is strictly enforced, as well as Rucker’s own rule that students must wear closed-toed shoes.

“I like the fact that they wear uniforms, because it gives parents a little control,” said Kathy Goldsmith, who volunteers at Rucker and has three children in Gilroy schools. Her daughter, Amanda, a freshman, wore uniforms at Rucker from kindergarten to fifth grade. Goldsmith said that students reject uniforms as they get older.

“They see kids wearing different colors and want to be a little more creative,” she said.

Most of the Rucker students who wear the uniform each day said their parents let them choose whether or not to wear it.

“I wear a uniform to school every day,” said Jennifer Simoneau, a third-grader. “I like the way they look.”

Her friend, Alexandra Schoeffling, said she wears a uniform some of the time.

“Right now, I’m wearing it but I don’t always,” she said. “My mom said it was my choice.”

Luigi Aprea Elementary School encourages parents to keep their children in uniform and provides them with order forms to purchase appropriate uniforms directly from the vendor that makes clothes with the Luigi logo.

“(Uniforms have) been a high priority at this school, but of course we face a challenge with the upper grades,” Principal Sergio Montenegro said.

Montez, who has two sons at Luigi, said the school has updated uniforms to fit students’ preferences. Girls can now have more feminine shirts and a jacket was added to the selection.

“We’d like to see everyone in uniform,” she said. “It does make it easier.”