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A new dress code for Bemidji Area Schools

BEMIDJI--As the 2016-17 school year gets underway, students at Bemidji Area Schools will be subject to new dress code expectations. The school board approved changes to the middle and high school handbooks, which now dictate that district middle ...

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BEMIDJI-As the 2016-17 school year gets underway, students at Bemidji Area Schools will be subject to new dress code expectations. The school board approved changes to the middle and high school handbooks, which now dictate that district middle and high school students shall not wear clothing shorter than four inches above their knees. Bemidji High School and Bemidji Middle School had different dress expectations before the change. Brian Stefanich, the high school's principal, said the new, identical dress codes will be easier for district staff to enforce. The new policy indicates that the minimum length is the same as the shorter end of a typical sheet of paper folded lengthwise.
"I'm thankful that the board adopted a policy that's consistent with the middle school and high school because all families know what the policy is," Stefanich said. The old middle school policy forbade clothes shorter than fingertip length, and the old high school policy dictated that no clothing rise above the knees. A ninth grade student with a brother or sister in eighth grade could get confused, Stefanich speculated. The school board asked district administrators to put forward the new dress codes last summer, and the board approved their addition to the handbook in mid-August after consulting with student council members, parents and faculty, said Bemidji Area Schools Superintendent Jim Hess. "I think we're reacting to some social media hullabaloo, myself," said Jeff Haack, school board chair. Several students were sent home or otherwise disciplined as the 2015-16 school year drew to a close, causing a stir on Facebook. "Some people thought the dress code was overly conservative," Hess said. The district's middle and high school handbooks outline the dress code, which also prohibits caps, backless shirts and baggy pants or shorts worn below the waist. Stefanich said high schoolers who violate the policy can change into Bemidji High School "spirit wear" that administrators there have on hand, they can change into different clothes or have a parent drop off another outfit. Repeat offenders face detention or suspension, but Stefanich said school staff "don't typically" have to go that far. High school staff reported 12 violations of the dress code in the 2015-16 school year, Stefanich said.BEMIDJI-As the 2016-17 school year gets underway, students at Bemidji Area Schools will be subject to new dress code expectations.The school board approved changes to the middle and high school handbooks, which now dictate that district middle and high school students shall not wear clothing shorter than four inches above their knees.Bemidji High School and Bemidji Middle School had different dress expectations before the change. Brian Stefanich, the high school's principal, said the new, identical dress codes will be easier for district staff to enforce. The new policy indicates that the minimum length is the same as the shorter end of a typical sheet of paper folded lengthwise.
"I'm thankful that the board adopted a policy that's consistent with the middle school and high school because all families know what the policy is," Stefanich said. The old middle school policy forbade clothes shorter than fingertip length, and the old high school policy dictated that no clothing rise above the knees. A ninth grade student with a brother or sister in eighth grade could get confused, Stefanich speculated.The school board asked district administrators to put forward the new dress codes last summer, and the board approved their addition to the handbook in mid-August after consulting with student council members, parents and faculty, said Bemidji Area Schools Superintendent Jim Hess."I think we're reacting to some social media hullabaloo, myself," said Jeff Haack, school board chair. Several students were sent home or otherwise disciplined as the 2015-16 school year drew to a close, causing a stir on Facebook."Some people thought the dress code was overly conservative," Hess said.The district's middle and high school handbooks outline the dress code, which also prohibits caps, backless shirts and baggy pants or shorts worn below the waist. Stefanich said high schoolers who violate the policy can change into Bemidji High School "spirit wear" that administrators there have on hand, they can change into different clothes or have a parent drop off another outfit. Repeat offenders face detention or suspension, but Stefanich said school staff "don't typically" have to go that far.High school staff reported 12 violations of the dress code in the 2015-16 school year, Stefanich said.

Joe Bowen is an award-winning reporter at the Duluth News Tribune. He covers schools and education across the Northland.

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