Wake County schools discuss change in student dress policy

CARY, NC (WTVD) -- Wake County Public Schools board members are discussing possible changes to the district's dress policy.

"You should be focusing more on the education rather than what people are wearing," said Athens Drive High senior Nestor Martinez.

It's a policy he's run into issues with, about shorts that were deemed too short.

"It wasn't a big deal, but they were making it a big deal," Martinez recalled.

He added that many of his classmates have also faced problems.

"I've noticed a lot of issues that people rebel," Martinez said.

Those issues have been voiced to District 8 Board Member Lindsay Mahaffey.

Off-camera, she explained to ABC11 that parents told her they struggled to find clothing for their children that fit the current policy and complained of inconsistent enforcement.

It's why she suggested using the Portland Public Schools (Oregon) policy as a template.

That policy is more flexible, allowing students to wear tank tops, spaghetti straps, strapless tops and bare midriff tops.

District 5 Board Member Dr. Jim Martin said he believes the time is appropriate to review the code.

"If a lot of dress that I have heard people talk about is suggestive, I'm sorry you've got a problem, it's not the person wearing the clothes that has a problem," Dr. Martin said.

Martin, who also serves as a professor of chemistry at North Carolina State University, added his thoughts on the overall idea of a punishment associated with such a policy.

"The objectification of people, the harassment that's gone on in the #MeToo movement. It's really inappropriate for a dress code to be a punitive policy," Martin explained.

The Portland Public Schools dress policy was implemented two years ago. Harry Esteve, the Director of Strategic Communications and Outreach for Portland Public Schools, said the change has garnered positive feedback.

"It's kind of taken the air out of the tensions that would sometimes arise about students and teachers clashing over what they were wearing," Esteve said.

The Wake County GOP disagreed with a potential change, tweeting its response Thursday morning: "Seems like a good point of discussion for the 2018 election. School board filing opens June 11 ... lots of left wing wackiness happening in Wake County right now."

The discussions represent the very beginning stages of any policy change and came up during an annual review of the student code of conduct which also touched on other unrelated measures.

This idea will go to staff for feedback before making its way back to a Policy Committee to review.

What do you think about the possibility of a change? Vote here to join in on the conversation.
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