Cru­saders call on At­lanta schools to up­date dress code.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution - - METRO - By Vanessa McCray

Two At­lanta fifth-grade girls who want to wear leg­gings to school are try­ing to change the stu­dent dress code, which bans “ex­tremely tight” and “dis­tract­ing” cloth­ing.

The At­lanta Board of Ed­u­ca­tion on Mon­day re­viewed po­ten­tial changes to its decade-old pol­icy that would em­pha­size that cloth­ing rules must be con­sis­tently and eq­ui­tably en­forced.

The board’s pol­icy re­view com­mit­tee will con­tinue the dis­cus­sion at a 4 p.m. Nov. 28 meet­ing. The full board could vote on the up­dated pol­icy Dec. 4, though a fi­nal de­ci­sion may be de­layed un­til Jan­uary if pub­lic in­put is ex­ten­sive.

Fa­lyn Han­d­ley, a 10-yearold stu­dent at Spring­dale Park El­e­men­tary School,

gath­ered more than 1,000 sig­na­tures on an online pe­ti­tion seek­ing to re­move the word “dis­tract­ing” from the dress code pol­icy.

“This is a la­bel ap­plied to girls’ cloth­ing. I do not be­lieve that cloth­ing is a

dis­trac­tion. It is just the re­ac­tion that mat­ters,” she told the board Mon­day. “I should not be pun­ished for other peo­ple’s be­hav­ior. I am not a dis­trac­tion.”

Some stu­dents and par­ents have com­plained that the

cloth­ing re­stric­tions un­fairly tar­get girls.

The district’s pro­posed up­date main­tains mod­esty re­quire­ments but stresses that stu­dents who at­tend schools where a uni­form is not re­quired should be able to wear what they want “with­out fear of un­nec­es­sary dis­ci­pline.”

The sug­gested re­write still states that “cloth­ing, hair­styles, and jew­elry must not be dis­tract­ing.”

That lan­guage is an­ti­quated and should be dropped, said Fa­lyn’s mother, Honora Han­d­ley.

“The con­ver­sa­tion is not about what you wore, not about what you wore to pro­voke, not about what you wore to en­tice, and not about what you wore to dis­tract,” she said. “This is an op­por­tu­nity for APS to take a lead­er­ship stance and build gen­der equity into this par­tic­u­lar pol­icy.”

Not ev­ery­one thinks the board should de­vote time to dress code changes. Va­lerie Wil­liams, who de­scribes her­self as an ad­vo­cate for stu­dents in the Wash­ing­ton clus­ter, said the district has ig­nored other re­quests — such as tele­vis­ing pub­lic com­ments dur­ing board meet­ings and re­zon­ing at­ten­dance ar­eas “eq­ui­tably” — from res­i­dents in the district’s south and west sides.

“I be­lieve that APS has more im­por­tant work to do than ... for this to be a pri­or­ity,” she said.

Su­per­in­ten­dent Me­ria Carstarphen said the board re­views all poli­cies on a cy­cle, and some­times those re­views take place at the same time the pub­lic raises an is­sue.

Ques­tions about the dress code have come from across the district, said Eshé Collins, the board mem­ber who leads the pol­icy com­mit­tee.

Both Fa­lyn and fel­low Spring­dale Park fifth-grader Ruby Segerman sported leg­gings while ad­dress­ing the school board. Ruby said they are af­ford­able, com­fort­able and make up “90 per­cent of my closet.”

“I don’t be­lieve that leg­gings are a dis­trac­tion,” she said. “I would be very an­noyed and em­bar­rassed to be called a dis­trac­tion. The dress code pol­icy should re­move that word.”


Fa­lyn Han­d­ley, 10, a fifth-grader at Spring­dale Park El­e­men­tary, wears leg­gings Mon­day while ask­ing At­lanta Board of Ed­u­ca­tion to up­date the district’s dress code. She got more than 1,000 sig­na­tures on an online pe­ti­tion.

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