EAST WENATCHEE — Eastmont School Board members are opting to take more time to think about proposed changes to the district’s dress code policy and procedures before putting it to a vote.
The main sticking point is a proposed change to Policy 3224 that specifically addresses support for students “dressing in a manner consistent with their gender identity and/or gender expression.”
Board members took issue with bringing up gender identity when the point of the changes in the procedures was to make the code more gender neutral.
“The dress code, as it stands now, is very female-oriented,” Eastmont High School Principal Lance Noell said. “On the enforcement side, I’ve addressed a lot of issues, but I generally don’t have to talk to young men about the length of their skirt, their belly buttons or straps.”
To that end, one of the recommended changes in the written procedures eliminates the chart of 15-plus “socially appropriate” dress rules by grade level and age. The list, among other things, addresses necklines, shoulder straps, midriff displays and length of skirts and shorts.
“The impetus is to have a code that is not stricter for young women, but to make it even,” Noell said.
Instead of a checklist, the proposed Procedure 3224-P gives school administrators the authority to “establish dress and grooming standards specific to each building.”
The new guidelines state “certain parts of the body” should be covered and that disruptive attire is not allowed. It also carries over the previous prohibition on clothing and jewelry connected to gang affiliation, violence and illegal activity, with a new reference to a list of specifics available on the district’s website.
Board members questioned whether removing the checklist and other details would be more difficult to enforcement and create consistency issues between buildings.
Noell and Assistant Superintendent David Woods both said enforcement is less about having a checklist of items and more about having a relationship with students and parents that allows a conversation.
“It’s important to have a good relationship that allows that to happen,” Woods said. “Eastmont has that.”
Both said the language that empowers staff to make the decisions is the important piece.
Board member Cindy Wright questioned, then, the need to mention gender identity and expression in the policy.
Noell said the line is one that has been included in updated student dress policies in other districts, including Wenatchee, Kennewick and Seattle. It has not been an issue at Eastmont, he said.
Superintendent Garn Christensen said he believes it’s meant to make it clear that the district will not discipline kids for dressing differently, though that has not been a problem here.
“If it’s not an issue, why put a spotlight on it?” Wright said. “I don’t think it fits our district. We are not Seattle.”
The board agreed to remove that particular line from the proposed policy, which will be brought back, along with the new procedures, for another look at the next meeting.
Board members said the extra time also will give community members more time to provide input.
“I would like to leave it out there to allow the community to weigh in and be heard,” Wright said.
The next board meeting is 5:30 p.m. April 27. The log-in instruction will be posted on the website, eastmont206.org.