Reynoldsburg City Schools students will start the school year with a new dress code that officials say reflects what students actually wear.

The school board voted 4-1 on June 18 to approve two dress codes: one for students in grades K-4 and another for those in grades 5-12.

The district's policy committee has been working on the dress code for months, gettting input from administrators and teachers. The aim was to cut down on confusion.

"I think I stopped counting at four meetings," board president Joe Begeny said, adding the changes are an effort at making the policy "equitable and enforceable."

"It's an effort to not spend academic time trying to enforce a dress code," said Begeny, a high school teacher in Columbus City Schools. "It does not mean that this is the end of all debates on the dress code, but the reality is people are going to be starting to shop for clothes for their kids."

Students in all grades will be prohibited from wearing flip-flops, slippers or house shoes; "tank" or sleeveless tops and dresses; clothing that is sheer or see-through; and clothing that promotes or is associated with gangs, sex, violence or drugs and alcohol.

The new policy removed prohibitions on hoodie-style sweatshirts and clothing made from velour, leather, "wind pants" material and stretch knits or clothing containing Spandex, which permits jeggings and leggings.

Students in fifth through 12th grades must have their school-issued identification card when on school grounds and at school events.

The policy states: "When dress or grooming interferes with the cleanliness, health, welfare or safety of students, or when dress or grooming disrupts the educational process by being distracting, indecent, or inappropriate, it is prohibited. Clothing must be worn as designed and appropriately sized."

In the upper grades, the policy calls for shorts, skirts and dresses to be no shorter than 2 inches above the knee and slits in shirts and dresses to be no higher than 2 inches above the knee. It also prohibits "low-cut, scoop or plunging necklines. No more than two (2) inches below the collar bone may be exposed."

Board member Robert Barga was the dissenting vote, saying wording in the dress code like "low-cut" and "plunging" could lead to imbalanced enforcement and the policing of girls' bodies.

"I can't support this dress code," Barga said. "I don't like how subjective it is and believe this invites allegations of discrimination and other concerns."

Other board members said the dress code is an effort to promote respect and responsibility while giving parents the autonomy to purchase clothes as they see fit.

"One of the big things I heard was a problem with our last policy was enforcement. Let's take away some of that so there is less time spent policing it," said Debbie Dunlap, board vice president. "We added a section that said as 'new trends in fashion or dress emerge or become out of date, the district reviews and revises the dress code to reflect the standards of the community.' So this is a fluid document, and it gets changed as trends change."

A student who violates the dress code will be issued a warning, and the student's parents/guardians will need to pick up the student or bring alternative clothing to wear, the policy states.

According to the policy, repeated violations will result in other disciplinary action, including detention, suspension and/or expulsion.

In other business, the board also approved pay-to-participate fees for the 2019-2020 school year.

The fees remain unchanged from last school year and will be $125 for junior high and middle school athletes and $175 for high school athletes.

The next school board meeting is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. July 16 at City Hall, 7232 E. Main St.

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