“The biggest change is that we will now allow jeans and we will now allow any color collared shirt,” Dr. Kevin Dickerson, Superintendent, said. “We have also changed the code to read “bottoms” instead of skirts and shorts. At this time, we are only allowing high school students to wear hooded sweatshirts. We have adjusted the number of days that a new student coming into the district must come into compliance from five days to ten days.”
Under the new rule, Milford High School students would be permitted to wear solid-colored hooded sweatshirts, pullovers or polar fleece jackets. Students must keep the hood down while they are in the school building.
“We felt that five days to require a student to come into compliance was just too short,” Dr. Dickerson stated. “We understand that it does take time for them to get the right clothing and, although we do have a closet here where they can get items they need, we thought extending this to 10 days was the right way to go.”
School Board member Scott Fitzgerald asked what the point of a solid-color shirt was and why a plaid or striped shirt would not be permitted.
“The policy kind of predates a lot of us as far as approved shirts,” Dr. Dickerson said. “At one time, I believe it was to prevent offensive language and those type of things. It also allowed us to identify our students and improve the look of our students. Because they dressed in a similar fashion, it eliminated whether or not someone had the means to purchase expensive clothing compared to those that did not have the same means. It kind of resolved that perception.”
School Board member Jean Wylie, who served as principal of Benjamin Banneker Elementary explained that another reason the strict dress code was implemented was to address bullying.
“Bullying was a big part of the reason this was put into place,” Wylie said. “Not everyone can buy the most expensive clothes, and this made it easier for those parents who couldn’t buy the latest trend in clothing and what have you. When teachers are on field trips, it also makes it much easier to identify our students as we often ask them to wear similar colors when we are leaving school grounds.”
Dr. Dickerson explained that in order to allow parents time to begin shopping for the start of the school year, the changes needed to be implemented or they would revert back to the previous policy. Board vice-president Rony Baltazar-Lopez asked if the dress code would be applied to students who had a medical diagnosis that allowed them to remain in remote learning and Dr. Dickerson said the policy was not extended to those students.
“I think it is a good balance between the policy we had before and one that moves forward to give students a little flexibility in their clothing,” Baltazar-Lopez said. “I remember being in tenth grade when the new dress code policy was implemented and that we, as students, were not really pleased with it. I think this is a better compromise for students, parents and teachers.”
Wylie also explained that when the dress code was first implemented, some schools were strictly enforcing the policy while some were not. Administration then required all schools to be strict in enforcement. She also stated that there were some types of clothing that were distracting, and the dress code addressed those types of clothing as well.
“If the intention is to prevent school attire from being distracting and from distracting in education, I think this policy meets the goals we have set,” School Board President Jason Miller said. “
The changes to the dress code passed with a vote of six to zero as School Board member Dr. Adam Brownstein was not present at the meeting. The district will also post on social media as well as their website how to donate to the clothing closet used to help students who may not be able to afford dress code required clothing. Students may also be provided vouchers from the district that may be used to purchase required clothing items if there is nothing available in the clothing closet. Anyone with questions about how to donate to the clothing closet, can contact the district office at 302-422-1600.
Betsy Price is a Wilmington freelance writer who has 40 years of experience, including 15 at The News Journal in Delaware.
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