The State Board of Education has approved a revised dress code for the Waterloo School District. Parents challenged the first dress code and the board voted against it after a ruling that it was not legal.
The board’s legal counsel, Carol Greta, said the first Waterloo dress code told students what they had to wear — which goes against Iowa code that says districts can only tell students what they can’t wear. Greta says the new dress code complies with the law.
“Make no mistake about it, the new policy that is written correctly in proscriptive terms, amounts to the same thing. The kids still have to wear what amounts to a uniform,” Greta says, “but the district, the (school) board complied with the statute.” Greta served as the administrative judge in the hearings on both versions of the dress code.
She says the school district did more than just change the wording of the new policy. Greta says the district also presented evidence that this policy was needed for the safety of students, not just in terms of not wearing flip-flops so they wouldn’t fall and get hurt. But she says they talked about the safety of not wearing the colors of the gangs that are in the Waterloo area.
Greta says the district presented evidence that a student was killed in a Waterloo park because of his gang ties. Greta says the new policy is detailed in what the students cannot wear and it would be tough for a student to come up with some type of clothing to get around the policy.
“It would be, in fact I heard in the course of the hearings a term I’ve never heard before, ‘jeggings,’ which is jeans-leggins,” Greta said. Greta credited the district with getting everyone involved in developing the new dress restrictions. She says it wasn’t just and administrator that sat down and made a list, she says they had a committee that included parents, students, teachers and administrators. “So I think they pretty well scoured the couture horizon and took care of anything that could come up,” Greta said.
The district pulled the original policy in December of last year after the ruling that it was illegal. They instituted the revised dress code, which went into effect while a new appeal against it made its way through the process.
Greta says parents have 20 days to decide if they want to appeal the Board of Education’s decision in district court. The parents were not present for today’s vote. The policy prohibits students from wearing anything other than knee-length or longer shorts, pants and skirts and a shirt with sleeves and a collar which is a solid color.
See the ruling on the dress code here: Waterloo Dress Code PDF