Dress code enforcement raises issues with students and parents

The decision by Wapakoneta High School administrators to enforce the dress code now that warmer weather — and less clothing — has set in has been met with some students and parents saying they should have been better warned.

Summer Griner was sent home from school Wednesday by school administrators after telling the sophomore her athletic shorts were too short and did not have pockets. She changed and returned to class.

While she was aware that shorts needed to be the length of her fingertips when her arms were straight down at her sides, Griner said she did not know her shorts also had to have pockets, until she was told on Wednesday to change.

“I can understand girls getting in trouble for jean shorts that may be too short, but to me, athletic shorts goes a little too far,” Griner said. “It does not make sense why it matters if your shorts have pockets or not.”

She admitted that in the past, she may have worn shorts that were a little too short but she never got in trouble for them.

“It just randomly came about this Wednesday,” Griner said. “The dress code is 100 percent stricter.”

In addition to short shorts, Griner said students also have gotten in trouble for flashy jeans or having too many pockets in their shorts.

“If we are going to get in trouble for things we have never heard of then they should at least tell us about these rules before we all get in trouble for them,” Griner said. “I feel the dress code was fine until everyone started to go crazy about everything.”

Wapakoneta High School Principal Scott Minnig said they were enforcing a dress code policy set in place years ago.

“We probably could have done a better job in the past enforcing it,” Minnig said of the policy, of which students are notified each year when they come to pick up their class schedules and are given a student handbook. “It’s not unusual this time of year.”

The high school principal said it is not atypical for school officials more strictly enforce the dress code as the weather gets warmer.

“Kids will try to push the limits and we have to rein them in,” Minnig said. “The last couple days we noticed short lengths were getting too short and we needed to address it.”

He said between 30 and 40 of the school’s 1,140 eighth-grade through senior students were found in violation of the dress code and asked to change. Those with other clothes with them, changed into those.

Others waited in the office for someone to bring clothes for them. Some of the parents were contacted and students returned home to change into something else, with most of them returning for the rest of the day.

“We weren’t sending them home to punish them, we were sending them home to change,” Minnig said.

While there are many rumors going around about other dress code changes expected to be enforced at the school beginning next year, Minnig said at this time no such changes have been made.

“At this point in time there is nothing to that,” Minnig said.

The primary issue addressed Wednesday was the length of shorts and mostly on girls, he said.

Also addressed in the high school’s dress code are no tank tops or cutoff shirts. All shirts must have sleeves and the shirts have to overlap around the entire body the shorts, pants or skirt a student is wearing.

No midriff or middle of the back may show.

Minnig said there are no stipulations on how tight a shirt may be, but too much clevage may not be shown with low-cut tops.

Minnig said on Wednesday, he and Assistant Principal William Snyder “made a concerted effort to make sure kids were following the dress code,” which they had seen was getting lax.

“We try to look for it at the beginning of the day as kids are in the hallway,” Minnig said, explaining they watch for multiple things in the school at that time each day.

Those found in violation were asked to go to the office. Teachers spotting dress code violations throughout the day also may send students down for administrators to address concerns.

Students were reminded of the school’s dress code previously through announcements over the intercom, the high school principal said.

“The kids were aware and whether we said it or not, it is our dress code and we need to enforce it,” Minnig said. “We enforced the dress code we already had and got back to what we were supposed to be doing. We are coming to school to learn. It’s something our kids need to take seriously.”

He explained that at any job they have in the future, the students will be expected to wear appropriate attire.

“Modesty is not a bad thing,” Minnig said. “We want them to take what they are learning seriously.”

Stacy Myers, whose 16-year-old daughter was sent home from school because of a pair of athletic shorts she was wearing Wednesday, said she was disappointed it was her daughter, not the school that called her.

She said previously when her 18-year-old son got something on his pants at school and had to come home to change, they wouldn’t let him leave without talking to her.

“Before they send my child home, they should call me,” Myers said.

Myers’ daughter also was counted as tardy, even though she had arrived at school on time.

“I was surprised,” Myers said of there being an issue over her daughter‘s shorts. “It was a pair of Nike athletic shorts she had worn to school before. She had worn them before to school without any issues.”

Myers said she also was surprised they chose the first warm day this spring to do a wide sweep of the school for dress code violations.

“A warning would have been nice,” Myers said.

Although she does have a student handbook at home, Myers said she wasn’t worried about it because she felt her daughter dressed appropriately, in loose shorts that fell a few inches below her bottom.  

“They are just regular athletic shorts,” Myers said. “They are no shorter than the volleyball outfits the team wears or the cheerleaders’ skirts.”

“Any other day, no one got in trouble for their shorts and then that one day everyone got in trouble,” Chelsea Myers said. “I was aware of the dress code, but a lot of girls wore shorts and never got in trouble before, so I thought we could wear them.”

The sophomore said she didn’t feel like the fingertip rule was a fair one to enforce because a lot of shorts may not be short, but fingertips still go past them.

“Some people have long legs or long arms,” Chelsea Myers said. “Most of the shorts weren’t that short. They were mostly athletic shorts.”

Superintendent Keith Horner said they were enforcing the rules, which are nothing new.

“It’s an issue every year when the weather gets warmer,” said Horner, who has received a few complaints from parents since Wednesday. “These rules have not changed in a considerable number of years.”

Like Minnig, Horner said most places where the students will continue on in their next phase of life have some standard of dress.

“We want to prepare these kids for whatever they do next,” Horner said.

Addressing talk in the community about the possibility of the district considering uniforms in the future, the superintendent said they have discussed making changes to the dress code, but uniforms would not be implemented next year or without parent input.

“I think uniforms would help parents in general, but it would be a process to get there,” Horner said, noting that typically any changes to be made to the next school year’s dress code would have been made by now.

To date, there have been none.