A standard code of dress inches closer on the horizon for elementary students in Newton-Conover City Schools, and some of the system's principals say that's a good thing.
"As a team, we have talked about the standard code of dress, and we agree with it," said former Shuford Elementary Principal Patrick Nelson speaking on behalf of principals representing the systems elementary schools. "It works at the middle school, and it has been phenomenal. Once this is approved, we will present you with discipline results and show you this has been positive."
Nelson, who will be principal at Newton-Conover Middle School during the upcoming school year, said clothes can affect a child's focus and even lead to bullying.
"Even at the elementary school, they look at shoes. They look at the clothes they are wearing. We would like to see the pressure taken off clothes so they are not looking at clothes or name brands," he said. "We have seen bullying that goes on with the dress."
Thornton Elementary Principal Tammy Brown agreed.
"If we are looking the same and have the same type of clothes, we won't be worrying about that," she said. "They can all be themselves and strive on academics."
Brown said some elementary students look at classmates clothing and find cause to ridicule their peers. Others might find cause for embarrassment.
"We do have students that look at each other and say, 'Why can't I have what you have?'" she said. "That is not fair for those students. ... They shouldn't have to worry about what kind of clothes they have on."
A standard dress code, South Newton Elementary School Principal Julia Styers said, can even have a positive impact on a student's "self-esteem, his self confidence."
"It can make him a better person," she said.
Nelson said elementary principals have received parent input and "it has been positive."
"Most accept it," he said. "They are ready to roll with it. They are ready to do back-to-school shopping now, so they say if we want to do it, let's do it."
Newton-Conover City Schools Board of Education did not vote on the matter during its regular monthly meeting this week, but Board Chair Scott Lowdermelt said a vote will occur during a Sept. 12 meeting.
If approved, as expected, the dress code will be optional at elementary schools for the start of the school year. It will be mandatory after January, said N-CCS Superintendent Dr. Barry Redmond.
The proposed dress code is similar to the dress code at in place at Newton-Conover Middle School. Students will be required to wear polo, oxford or golf style shirts in solid colors including red, white, blue, navy blue, yellow or green. Shirts must be long enough to be tucked in at all times and no logos are permitted unless they are logos for the schools or the school system.
White or gray undershirts will be allowed, but no visible writing would be allowed on any undergarment or undershirt.
For pants, the dress code mandates slacks or shorts with a belt for boys or slacks, capris, shorts or skorts all with a belt. Jumpers or skirts may also be worn, and no writing or artwork is allowed on the bottoms. Colors allowed by the standard code of dress are tan, black or dark blue.
Sweatshirts or sweaters without a hood are only the outerwear that will be allowed in the classrooms under the dress code. The same color and logo specifications apply.
Students must wear shoes at all times, and they must have backs and closed toes. No shower shoes, flip flops or bedroom shoes will be allowed.
Any necklaces must remain inside the shirt, according to the proposed dress code, and while earrings in the ears and watches on the arms will be allowed, no other visible jewelry or body painting will be permitted.
The dress code even applies to hair dye — it won't be permitted if it is a distraction.
In the event of hardship, families can obtain help from the schools if documentation can be provided.
Penalties for non-compliance will be set at the individual schools.
School administrators will conduct annual reviews of the dress code, but this week, school board members supported it.
"I like this. I think it makes a beautiful image at our elementary schools," board member Kyle Drum said, adding it will make students transition to the middle school "much easier."
Board member Jim Stockner also supported the plan — provided the dress code isn't called a uniform.
"Uniforms. That is a dirty word here. I wish we could do away with the word 'uniforms.' ... It triggers a lot of bad thoughts. That is what they do in China and Russia," he said. "People think (the students) will all look the same. This is really just a dress code, a standard code of dress."