Some Pinellas students start school year with strict dress code

8:02 PM, Aug 19, 2013   |    comments
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ST. PETERSBURG, Florida -- While Hillsborough students enjoy one more day of summer vacation, most Bay area students returned to class today. In Pinellas, several schools are enforcing the dress code.

As St. Petersburg High School, students are covering up mid-driffs, shoulders, legs, and boxers. Well, at least most are. An administrator told several girls their shorts were too short, and some boys were told their pants were handing too low, exposing their underwear.

"Last year, it was ridiculous what some students wore to school," said 17-year-old senior Leosha Bristow.

Hannah Hartford, 17, also recalled what girls wore. She said, "A lot of shorts up the butt and bra straps. Gross stuff."

Leosha said what students wore was more of a distraction in class. She said, "It took away from the learning environment."

"The dress code or lack of a dress code was out of control," said St. Petersburg principal Albert Bennett. Bennett said the word is out that the dress code is in. "Dress for success or at least attempt to so it doesn't look like a beach."

School administrators sent home letters and made robocalls over the summer warning parents and students the district's dress code would be enforced this school year.

Warnings also went out to students on the first day of class. Leosha said she received a warning for wearing a tank top that was cut too low and showed too much cleavage. She understands why the dress code is needed. She said, "I'm here to learn and graduate. It's not a fashion show."

If enforcement doesn't work, St. Pete High may follow Clearwater High School, the first Pinellas school to switch to a modified dress code last year. When asked what they think about the modified dress code, students used words such as "fabulous," "comfortable," "spirited," "convenient," "simple," and "unique."

The rules are simple: tops include polo shorts in school colors or spirit shirts. Bottoms are plain khakis, pants, or blue jeans -- or solid school colors with no tears or holes -- and shorts, skirts, and dresses must be no higher than the knees.

Students say the dress code puts everyone on the same level. They don't feel bad if they are not able to afford the name brand clothes. They say the dress code also helps build school spirit and unity among students.

School officials say the modified dress code helps modify behavior; disciplinary issues dropped about 40 percent last year.

St. Petersburg High School's principal said the grace period ends this week. Starting Monday, students who violate the dress code will have to wait for their parents to bring them a change of clothes, and after multiple violations they face suspension.

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