Northridge Superintendent John Shepard was clear Jan. 26 that despite swirling rumors, the large crowd of staff, parents, and students gathered at a community forum were not there to discuss school uniforms, but to begin a conversation about the district's dress code.

Northridge Superintendent John Shepard was clear Jan. 26 that despite swirling rumors, the large crowd of staff, parents, and students gathered at a community forum were not there to discuss school uniforms, but to begin a conversation about the district's dress code.

Calling the current dress code antiquated, Shepard said he wanted the discussion to focus on what is appropriate for students to wear.

"We're opening the conversation," he said. "The last thing we need is a quick decision."

And no decisions were made Thursday night. Shepard said he plans to create committees of parents and students to look at the dress code needs - building by building, since each building houses different grade levels. He also wants to create a community survey to gather opinions regarding dress codes.

Many of those who spoke addressed school uniforms, and their opposition to uniforms.

"It was so ugly and I felt like a nerd in it," sophomore Caroline Crawford said, referring to a uniform she wore when she attended private school. And the uniforms didn't stop students from violating dress codes, she said.

Crawford recommended a "business casual" mode of dress and suggested a dress code check at either homeroom or first-period classes.

"At times we have to call home" regarding inappropriate clothing, said Amy Anderson, principal of Northridge High.

"Every year we have new problems," she said. This year, the trend in girls' attire favors form-fitting leggings and continually shortening skirts, she said. Some girls leave home wearing one thing, then change when they get to school.

Students constantly "push the envelope," Anderson said, but they're kids, and generally react reasonably when confronted.

Anderson said she has 25 to 30 conversations every year with students about inappropriate attire.

"We have a lot of teacher conversations, too," Anderson said, that never make it to the principal's office.

Middle school principal Robin Elliot said she warns students once, and makes them change clothes the second time.

When it came to parents' sentiments at the forum, the main objection most parents had to uniforms or stiff dress codes was the cost. It's expensive to buy all new clothing for kids, they said, especially when they have several kids in district schools.

Parent Troy Willeke pointed out that most people who would attend a forum about dress code would be there in opposition to uniforms or strict guidelines. Those in favor would just stay home, he said.

A community survey, Willeke suggested, would yield a fair representation of opinions.

Others noted that districts such as Johnstown-Monroe have successfully implemented dress codes.

"What other schools are doing really doesn't affect Northridge," Shepard said. "Just because it works other places doesn't mean it works here."

The current dress code applies to all the schools equally, he said, and that doesn't really work.

"One size doesn't fit all," he said.

Shepard said it's important that students and adults have input when determining what's appropriate. He described the forum as a "great first step in the process" and reiterated that uniforms were never really a consideration.

He said clothing styles change constantly, and he believes the dress code should be addressed every year.

"Trying to be proactive is what we're trying to do here," Shepard said.