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Principal Argues for Ban on Shorts in School Dress Code

Dunedin High School students and parents expressed concerns about heat and the disciplinary burden on faculty.

Dunedin High Principal Rueben Hepburn is proposing a stricter dress code, including a ban on shorts, for the upcoming school year.

“We want to be a school that promotes academics, not policing the dress code,” Hepburn said.

Since taking over as principal, Hepburn has been grooming Dunedin High to become a Pinellas County , which sets higher expectations for students and encourages closer parent guidance. Dunedin's first crop of 100 or so fundamental ninth-graders begins this fall.

The stricter wardrobe changes were proposed to further faculty goals of cleaning up the school's reputation. Hepburn cited recent successes that came from stricter discipline.

The school recently raised its grade ranking from a "D" to a "B," and  has a good chance of earning an "A" for the 2010-11 school year, Hepburn said. He also announced that the school’s graduation rate increased from 84 to 90 percent.

The new dress code would prohibit students from wearing shorts during school hours. Hepburn showed slides at a July 14 meeting depicting girls' too-short shorts, mini-dresses and skin-tight leggings. Parents largely agreed those items were inappropriate for a learning environment.

No male clothing was depicted in the slides.

One parent who wished to remain anonymous approached the microphone to say it wasn’t fair to punish boys for girls' wardrobe choices. Her comment received applause.

Many parents felt that a more rigorous dress code would require more faculty effort, not less.

“The discipline in DHS was improved, and that had nothing to do with the dress code,” Carol White said.

Other parents expressed concerns regarding the hot Florida weather.  One male student, a rising sophomore, said being required to wear pants in hot weather would result in what he called "swamp butt." Others pointed out the regular failing of the school’s air-conditioning system.

“I promise you, if they wear pants in 90-something-degree weather, they’re not going to die,” Hepburn said.

Despite his conviction, Hepburn allowed each parent, student and concerned citizen to vote on the issue. Ballots asking whether the proposed dress code should be implemented or the current county-mandated code be continued were made available.

Parents asked for a compromise: that all students — male and female — be permitted to wear shorts no more than three inches above the knee. Some parents also called for a ban on gym shorts.

One parent even suggested that girls who wear nonconforming bottoms be required to wear paper shorts to class instead of keeping them in the in-school detention center, called IC. She said embarrassing them is the best way to get them to follow the rules.

“If only skirts and pants are allowed, can boys wear kilts?” Lisa Maciolck asked.

Kilts, a longstanding tradition at Dunedin High, especially for its Dunedin Scottish Highlander Band, are generally encouraged as a showing of spirit on game days.

Hepburn said band members would still be allowed to wear kilts for performances but did not say whether he would allow them during school hours.

Hepburn heard from dozens of people and assured them that he would make a final decision on the majority opinion. Parents left the meeting with the assumption that shorts would continue to be allowed in the next school year, which begins Aug. 22. 

*This article was updated at 9:46 a.m., Monday, July 18.

Mary jones July 18, 2011 at 12:13 PM
Just a comment on the statement regarding pictures of girls wearing the items in question. There were no pictures of girls wearing these items, the pictures were of the items themselves (shorts, leggins, etc.) Also, the paper shorts (and zip ties) have been at DHS for several years and are also used for the boys who wear their pants down around their thighs.
Happy Jordan July 18, 2011 at 12:49 PM
I was at the meeting and another comment that was left out of this article was - "implement the Pinellas County dress code and many of these issues would not be issues".
Marcia July 18, 2011 at 01:31 PM
What we really need to do is teach our kids how to make good choices. If they cannot figure out what is appropriate school attire, they are not going to be able to figure out what is appropriate work attire. Guidelines are important and should be enforced. No Daisy Dukes, no micro mini's, no "pants on the ground" but I think modest shorts and skirts are totally acceptable in school, especially in Florida.
Tricia July 18, 2011 at 01:46 PM
We live in Florida where many workers are allowed to wear shorts. I say modest shorts no more than 3 inches above the knee ( PCSB dress code) is reasonable. I agree no low cut revealing tops for the girls or boys. Boys with droopy drawers were already addressed with the zip tie temporary belts issued by fashion patrol. The air conditioning is a problem and many times does not work - the kids need to be comfortable and reasonable length shorts are the answer. I encourage parents to shop with their teen for school wardrobe and come to a compromise -keeping it within a tasteful and respectful manner.
solomon kane July 18, 2011 at 07:36 PM
I paid $32.67 for a XBOX 360 and my mom got a 17 inch Toshiba laptop for $94.83 being delivered to our house tomorrow by Fedex. I will never again pay expensive retail prices at stores.I even sold a 46 inch HDTV to my boss for $650 and it only cost me $52.78 to get. Here is the website we using to get all this stuff, http://BuzzSave.com
Shaine Harvester July 18, 2011 at 09:36 PM
Hey parents...YOU should be policing what your children wear to school.
Wendy July 19, 2011 at 02:36 AM
I am proud of all of DHS has accomplished. As a Pinellas County teacher and a parent of two highschoolers, I agree with Shaine. Parents need to pay attention. Teachers are paid to educate children, not worry about their attire. That's a parent's job.
allan barete July 19, 2011 at 10:04 AM
I paid $32.67 for a XBOX 360 and my mom got a 17 inch Toshiba laptop for $94.83 being delivered to our house tomorrow by Fedex. I will never again pay expensive retail prices at stores.I even sold a 46 inch HDTV to my boss for $650 and it only cost me $52.78 to get. Here is the website we using to get all this stuff, http://BuzzSave.com
Katie Dolac July 19, 2011 at 04:25 PM
Wow, lots of good perspective here. When I ran into Commissioner Julie Ward Bujalski after yesterday's budget workshop, she actually suggested a compromise: use the knee as a standard length for both male and female students. Girls could still wear cute Capri pants, boys would still be able to wear their shorts. What do you think?
Sarah fike May 22, 2013 at 08:55 PM
I think you should be able to wear shorts. You WOULD die if you we're wearing pants in 90 degree weather. It's in flordia! Why the heck would you wear pants to school. It's one thing if they have airconditionning but they don't.

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