Students at Whitehall-Yearling High School are sporting more casual, comfortable and convenient looks this year.

"I didn't like (last year) that I couldn't wear a hoodie. It feels cold to me in the classroom sometimes," said Tyra Gray, 18, a Whitehall-Yearling senior.

Hooded sweatshirts -- with the hoods down -- are among the clothing items students can wear this year that were prohibited last year.

Rebekah Revadelo, 16, a junior who is running cross-country, said the new dress code means she can wear sweatpants to her final class without changing before after-school practice.

Sweatpants were another item on last school year's no-no list.

Likewise, Melvin Tinsley, 16, a junior and a cornerback for the football team, said he isn't always required to change his classroom wardrobe before going to after-school practices.

The greater flexibility stems from a new change in the district's dress code that Whitehall school board members approved July 12, based on recommendations from the district's Policy Review Committee, said Superintendent Brian Hamler.

The decision to amend the dress code was not unanimous.

It passed by a 3-2 majority, with board members Mike Adkins, Jeff Lees and President Blythe Wood voting in favor of the measure.

Board members Leo Knoblauch and Darryl Hammock opposed the recommendation.

Staff at Whitehall-Yearling requested the changes, Hamler said, and he took them to the district's Policy Review Committee.

"The committee discussed the recommended changes, asked questions and eventually supported the changes," Hamler said.

"I brought the recommendations of the committee to the board for approval," whose members approved the new dress codes for students at Whitehall-Yearling and Rosemore Middle School, Hamler said.

Carson Wright, a 16-year-old junior, said he enjoys the more "relaxed" dress code.

"It's more comfortable, and it shows that what we say is heard," Wright said.

"I listened to the parents and the students in our community," said Whitehall-Yearling Principal Paul Smathers, "and together we came up with an amendment to the original Whitehall City Schools dress code for me to propose.

"We came up with the new dress-code policy while maintaining the integrity and safety purposes for the dress-code policy in the first place," Smathers said.

Students also now are permitted to wear flip-flops.

According to the new dress code, preferred colors remain white, black, tan and gray, with the exception of "spirit wear," apparel with Whitehall-Yearling and Rams logos of different colors.

Hats, caps, bandannas and sunglasses also remain prohibited, as well as spiked bracelets, wallets with chains, and "dog collars," or spiked jewelry worn on the neck.

Likewise, "extreme or distracting body piercing" remains prohibited.

The dress code first was put into place in 2008 and originally was more strict. The rules were eased last year to allow denim and boots, among other items.

District spokesman Ty Debevoise said last year the dress code is meant not only to maintain a high-quality learning environment but also serves as a safety measure, to allow people who aren't students to be identified easily.

The code spells out other reasons for its existence, including to decrease conflicts about clothing among students, staff and parents and to promote a serious atmosphere for learning.

Hammock said he opposed the new changes to the dress code because the previous dress code instituted a more "professional look" he thinks benefits students.

He is a member of the Policy Review Committee with Hamler, Wood, Deputy Superintendent Mark Trace, Assistant Superintendent Kristi Barker and Treasurer Steve McAfee.

Hammock said he favored the dress-code policy as it existed.

"I'm a pastor and several teenagers at my church told me they were having trouble getting jobs ... I told them to go get their old school uniforms," Hammock said.

"I want our kids to dress as nice as possible and to be professional, and I thought the new policy was going a little backward."

To view the full Whitehall City School District dress code, visit ThisWeekNEWS.com/ whitehall.

kcorvo@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekCorvo