Lewiston students can now wear balaclavas, hats and crop tops

LEWISTON — After months of deliberation, the school board voted 6-0 on Monday to approve a modified dress code policy to allow students to wear previously prohibited items, such as hats, hoodies, studded collars and tops short.

Caleb Ishimwe, left, and Emanuel Francisco are working on a group project for the book club in June 2021 at Lewiston Middle School. Students have been allowed to wear balaclavas and hats throughout the pandemic. Daryn Slover/Sun Diary

The amended policy emphasizes the personal rights of students and their families to decide what to wear to school. “The board will not interfere with this right unless students’ personal choices create a disruptive influence on the school program or affect the health or safety of others,” the policy says.

Several statements have been reworded and three clauses removed from the previous policy, including those addressing restrictions on head wear, shirt length, and exposed underwear and genitals.

“This is a significant change,” Superintendent Jake Langlais said. “I think that’s the one that, based on the survey feedback, student input, family and community input to this survey, is the direction our community would like to go.”

The district distributed a dress code survey in November that asked respondents to identify clauses that should be revised and to provide additional comments. The Steering Committee used these responses to guide its revisions.

Originally, the school committee had to approve the first reading of the policy. However, committee members voted 6-0 to forgo the second reading, enacting the new policy immediately.

The school board also removed language that prohibited students from wearing clothing that could be considered weapons, such as chains and spiked collars.

Langlais explained that the school already has a policy that prohibits weapons in school. Removing the reference to weapons from the clothing policy will give more weight to the policy on weapons and violence, he said.

Committee chair Megan Parks added, “I think the direction of taking that language out of the dress code policy, but keeping it in the weapons policy, was to really draw the line between what is an actual weapon and what is a 12-year-old girl wearing a studded collar from Claire’s which is clearly not a weapon.

The new policy also includes a revised statement that allows school administrators and teachers to require special clothing for certain activities or classes such as extracurricular activities, vocational technology programs and physical education. They cannot, however, require items of a specific brand.

The dress code was last revised in 2015. In June, the school committee considered changing the policy to allow students to wear hats and balaclavas, but ultimately adjourned the discussion to get more feedback. staff and community. Since then, several students and parents have spoken in public debates to encourage the school committee to review the policy, which some say was particularly harmful to girls and applied unevenly by school staff.

District staff will be notified by email of the new policy, Langlais said.

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