Dress Code Should Be Up to Each School, Superintendent Says
Michael Schilder says it should not be addressed at the board level.
With an opinion from Superintendent of Schools Michael Schilder that the board should not be in the business of creating dress codes, the board opted to hold off on continued review of the dress code, saying they would prefer to leave the policy as is and wait to hear what the new administration at the high school thinks.
Board president Evan Lerner said there were two options to consider with regard to the dress code, which has been in discussion for months concerning whether the board should be investigating it or not.
The first, Lerner said, is to allow Bridgewater-Raritan High School principal Brett Charleston to evaluate enforcement for a few months and then report his findings back to the board.
The second, Lerner said, is to direct the policy committee to look at the current policy in comparison with other districts.
“We’ve had public discussion three times now, with frankly little in the way of input,” he said. “There have been no complaints.”
Most board members said they would like to hold off on creating a whole new policy.
“My view is that we have a new administrator [at the high school], let’s let him do his job,” said board member Lynne Hurley. “Let him come back to us, it’s an administrative issue now.”
And board member Cindy Cullen said she believes the current policy is fine, it’s just a matter of enforcement at this point.
“If people are not presenting themselves in an appropriate manner, then someone should be talking to them,” she said. “I like the fact that the policy is not tightly defined because I think children need to learn how to come to those conclusions on their own and make determinations of what’s appropriate and what’s not.”
Parent Gary Whaley said he would rather see these kinds of issue handled by school administration.
“If there’s an enforcement issue, that seems like an administrative issue, not about how students are dressing,” he said. “I don’t like to see us creating solutions in search of a problem.”
“I don’t want to think your time is being wasted doing what, for me, appears to be somewhat irrelevant activity,” he added.
Board members said they would like to hear from Charleston at some point, but acknowledged that now is too early to do so.
“It seems the 100 percent consensus is to do nothing at this point, and give [Mr. Charleston] the opportunity to get more in touch with the school and students, and come back at some time in the new year to share his thoughts,” Lerner said.
Schilder said he has always been impressed by how students have handled themselves and how they have dressed at the high school, and does not see that there is really a problem.
“I think student morale has always been high, and I don’t think there is a problem,” he said. “I never thought there was a problem.”
Schilder said he is of the opinion that dress codes should be handled individually by the administrations in the different schools.
“I believe that specific dress codes should be handled at the building level, and I don’t think the board should even review them,” he said. “Either you are in the dress code business or you’re not.”
“The administration is who sees the students every day, and I don’t think the board should look at it,” he added. “Either you develop a policy, or you trust the administration to the right thing. We have much bigger issues to deal with than the cut of someone’s skirt.”
High school student, and student board representative, Olivia Di Iorio said she agrees.
“I don’t think the board should change the whole policy for a small percentage of people,” she said. “If they don’t dress right, I think the administrators should deal with it individually.”