Case in Point

To the Wilton school board: Think this one through


Anna Marine is a self-described rule follower. She understands regulations, procedures, and that several things in life are monitored for a reason.

As a reporter, I know this first-hand. Anna Marine, a senior at Wilton High School, is a very active student. I've covered her in several activities since she was a little girl. From numerous 4-H projects at the annual Muscatine County Fair, to showing animals a the fair, watching her play musical instruments, not only in Wilton's school band but in bands with friends, etc. she's a busy student.

She's active, involved, and now she's growing up. Anna's also no stranger to presenting information in front of the Wilton school board. She's been part of student teams that have gone onto speech contests and the like, presenting their material in front of the board.

At the Oct. 13 board meeting, she was there alone, addressing a very important topic — the school's dress code.

For more from her presentation and the meeting, see our front-page story.

She presented board members with the current dress code, and proposed modifications to it that she came up with after talking with fellow students, teachers and administrators.

She agreed to come in and talk with me after the meeting, and I had a rather interesting request. I asked her to wear the shirt she was "dress coded" for in school. Yes, that's what they call it, being "dress coded" when your told you're wearing something against the dress code. Take a look at the picture on page 1. Thoughts?

Most of the time this is happening to girls who are accused of dressing too scantily clad.

In Anna's case, her top didn't have two inches of fabric on the shoulders. She says she was also wearing a jacket over it, but was still reported to the office for breaking the code.

My guess is that she was surprised to have "gotten in trouble," as she's not the kind of student who breaks rules. Yet her natural inquisitiveness and leadership skills prompted her to do some research, talk with her peers, and take action.

What she came up with (again see page 1) is a new list of modifications that deal primarily with the two rules that seemingly get broken quite often — tank tops needing to have two inches of fabric on the shoulders, and shorts that must be longer than your fingertips while holding your arms at your sides.

Personally, I would have worded the new rules differently, but the general just is there.

Modifications also include allowing students to wear ball caps. When I saw that one, I'll admit I had to pick my jaw up off the floor. Board member Jeremy Lies was not a fan of that one, and neither am I. In the interest of full disclosure, I own more hats than I'd like to admit, and at that age, you wouldn't see me without a hat on. However in school, I would have never thought of wearing one. It's against rules and etiquette. Plus as a teacher, don't you want to know when students are looking at you, or better yet, where they are looking?

I hope the board won't consider that change. I also hope they really study this before making a quick decision. While I agree with Anna that it's hard for girls to find clothes these days that meet the code and trends, it's because less has become more in today's fads.

Perhaps Principal Sue O'Donnell is right that some of the rules may be a little behind the times, and geared toward girls. I would just urge the board to proceed with caution.

As a proponent of school uniforms, I'm probably a bad one to ask. Having said that, I truly do understand where Anna is coming from, and what her rules would mean, if implemented. However, she wasn't trying to push the limits to begin with, and she got "coded." Get it? That's my fear. More on this when I have more space...