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Heading to school? Then know the code



Published: Sat, October 20, 2001 @ 12:00 a.m.



School officials blame pop singers such as Britney Spears for risqu & eacute; clothes.

By PAUL WHEATLEY

VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER

Low-cut, V-neck shirts combined with low-rider, hip-hugging pants have made their way out of malls and into schools, prompting area school officials to flex the muscle of their dress codes.

The clothes, designed to show skin, and in some cases underwear, go against school dress codes in places such as Struthers High School, where faculty have cited 44 female students in the last seven weeks for violations.

Distracting: While most Struthers students dress appropriately, high school Principal Mary Ann Meadows said showing off midriffs is a distraction to male students and teachers who are trying to learn or give instruction.

"How can we expect people to focus on school work?" asked Meadows, who said she doesn't have a vendetta against such clothing when it's worn outside of school.

In Struthers and other school districts, dress policies are adopted by school boards and must be enforced by school officials.

Students can't say they weren't warned: policies are mailed out each year in districts, such as Warren City Schools.

"We don't want body parts hanging out that shouldn't be," said Claudia von Ostwalden, an assistant principal at Warren G. Harding High School.

Their rules: In Warren, shorts must hit the knees, midsections must be covered and halter tops and midriff shirts are not allowed. Students that don't meet these standards are allowed to retrieve appropriate clothes from their locker, wear a T-shirt loaned by the school or call a parent or guardian to bring in clothing.

Many school officials, like Meadows, blame the fashion trend on young pop singers like Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera. These artists are only two of a long list of female celebrities who often appear wearing pants that expose thong underwear or see-through shirts that show off bras.

Celebrities, however, aren't the only ones promoting flesh-showing fashion.

Ad was pulled: Retailer J.C. Penney recently pulled a TV ad showing a mother encouraging her young daughter to wear her hip-hugging jeans low. The mom in the ad said, "You're not going to school dressed like that, are you?" She then yanked the jeans downward to further expose her daughter's stomach.

Meadows said she cringed every time she saw commercials for back-to-school fashion on TV before the school year started.

Both Youngstown and Campbell public schools enforce a mandatory pupil uniform policy. Youngstown enacted a uniform code in 1997, Campbell put its policy in place the year before that.

Chuck Zillo, community relations coordinator for Youngstown City Schools, said uniforms allow the district to steer clear of many problems associated with clothing, such as distractions in class.

"Our students have been very compliant," he said. "Its been a success so far."

Women aren't the only ones who must abide by appearance standards. Struthers and Boardman schools don't allow beards. In Struthers, Elvis Presley-like sideburns are also a no-no -- they can't go below the earlobes.

Thin mustaches -- like Charles Bronson's, not Groucho Marx's -- are allowed.

wheatley@vindy.com




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