Stricter dress code leads to student petition

Students at one Polk County high school are fighting a new policy regulating the length of shorts and necklines.

This year at Lake Region High School, students must wear "jeans, dress slacks, capris, or longer shorts that are close to the knee."

Also, according to the policy, "all shirts will have a neckline no lower than neck/collar bone."

The tightened policy has led to an online petition. As of Tuesday night, it has gained nearly a 1000 signatures.

"I was wearing these shorts specifically, fingertip length," said freshman Monica Rodriguez, pointing to her mid-thigh length shorts.

She is among the students who have been taken out of class and put into "Choice Room" detention since the policy began being enforced.

"My shorts weren't appropriate," echoed junior Patricia Willis. "They're, as you can see, fingertip length."

What was appropriate fashion in the Spring, may not fly this fall.

Under the old policy, "they said if it passes your fingertips, it's good," recalled junior Kyndahl Jessee. "Now, they say it has to be to your knee."

That puts extra stress on parents to buy new outfits.

"The only place I know of to find that style of short or length of short, that is not athletic short, would be a golf pro shop," said parent Pamela Willis. "I can't afford that, so we went to Goodwill last night and bought about five pairs of jeans."

Some comments left on the petition worry the new policy targets female students.

"You pretty much have to come to school, as a female, dressed like a guy," said senior Micah Hubbard.

"Some of the guys have shorter shorts than what we are allowed to wear," Rodriguez said.

Here's the Polk County School District's side. They say the Lake Region School Advisory Council, which includes parents and students, developed the new policy.

A letter went to registered students in the second week of July, though, some parents claim they didn't receive it.

August 10, the new policy was posted on Twitter and Facebook. After school started on August 24, students got a full presentation, along with a two-week grace period to comply.

As of last Wednesday, officials say that if students violate the code, the student is given an opportunity to change into any other clothes they might have with them, call home for someone to bring a change of clothes or the school might have some clothing available for them to change into.

If they can’t change into appropriate attire, students are sent to the "choice room" detention "where they are welcome to study."

Students who've spent time there don't think that's the answer. They want to go back to the old policy.

"They care more about what you are wearing than your education and I honestly despise that," Rodriguez said. “How can I get to college when I am stuck in a room where I can't even do my own school work. The whole entire class is doing everything else and I am here doing nothing at all."

The school district says Lake Region High School is enforcing the dress code among both genders, and is not targeting one gender over another. They say the vast majority of students are complying

Still, they encourage parents to share their concerns with school administration.