The Ottumwa Courier

June 5, 2013

OHS dress code lengthens

Courier staff writer

---- — OTTUMWA — School is an inappropriate place to don your butt-hugging, skin-baring clothing, Ottumwa school administrators say.

The OHS dress code has been updated with eight new rules for the upcoming school year, clarifying those that were enacted in August.

Students are no longer allowed to wear sleeveless tops; leggings and yoga pants that are not worn without an appropriate length skirt; athletic shorts that are more than 5 inches above the top of the knee; pants with any holes, frayed or otherwise; and pajamas.

The additions to the dress code are honing in on the high school's "10 Standards for Success," one of which is dressing in a school-appropriate manner.

"We're just looking to raise the standards and prepare students for success," said superintendent Davis Eidahl. "We've seen an incredible change [over the last year]. Of course we still have progress to be made, but the students really responded to the expectations, and Ottumwa High School looked totally different this year than in previous years."

With some of the new requirements, such as the rules concerning leggings, yoga pants and athletic shorts, it's not the type of clothing that's the problem — it's the fit or length.

"As new trends come in, we have to adjust," Eidahl said of the "leggings as pants" trend.

The same goes for pajamas and sweatpants, he said. They're inappropriate in a professional school setting.

"If you get out of bed on a Saturday morning to go to the state fair, what you put on ... is probably not what you would put on to go to work," he said. "You have to dress appropriately for the situation, and we feel school is a professional atmosphere."

For the most part, students responded positively to the new dress code this school year, he said.

"We saw it contribute to a change in culture, and we saw it increase pride throughout the building," he said. "That all impacts achievement."

Enacting these clothing standards has not been a problem for low-income students, he said.

"It doesn't tell kids what they have to wear, it tells them what they cannot," he said. "It's pretty general. If you put on a T-shirt and a pair of blue jeans — as long as they fit around your waist — you're good to go."

At one point, school administration did consider requiring uniforms. But when teachers witnessed a positive response and compliance with the dress code, the idea was thrown out.

— To follow reporter Chelsea Davis on Twitter, head to @ChelseaLeeDavis.

Updated Ottumwa High School dress code: The following will NOT be considered appropriate school attire: -- Headwear: hats, hoods, bandanas, sunglasses, etc. -- Clothing that exposes undergarments (bra straps, underwear, gym shorts) -- Clothing that exposes the midsection or cleavage -- Strapless, halter-style tops -- Sleeveless tops -- Clothing with large, open arm holes -- Clothing with alcohol, tobacco, drug advertising, inappropriate words or phrases -- Skirts, shorts or dresses that are not appropriate in length (not appropriate means more than 5 inches above the top of the knee) -- Leggings and yoga pants that are not worn without an appropriate length skirt -- Athletic shorts that are more than 5 inches above the top of the knee -- Pants with any holes, frayed or otherwise -- Pants worn below the waist line -- Pajamas