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Hernando County School Board's dress code indecision hurts parents, businesses

Ford Poe, 11, is fitted by Debbie Foster, owner of ABC School Uniforms, while his grandmother, Lori Langley, watches. Foster said the board’s delay in adopting a dress code has resulted in a flood of parents seeking refunds, which has hurt her business.

RON THOMPSON | Times

Ford Poe, 11, is fitted by Debbie Foster, owner of ABC School Uniforms, while his grandmother, Lori Langley, watches. Foster said the board’s delay in adopting a dress code has resulted in a flood of parents seeking refunds, which has hurt her business.

BROOKSVILLE — When the Hernando County School Board voted to hold off on adopting a new dress code for district schools, board members said they did not want to make a major change so soon before school starts.

But the board's July 29 decision to put off a dress-code decision has sent many scrambling: schools to try to inform parents about the board's decision, parents to try to buy the appropriate clothes, and stores to try to provide refunds to parents who no longer need collared shirts for their kids.

At ABC School Uniforms, 7292 Sunshine Grove Road, owner Debbie Foster said she has been inundated with parents seeking refunds since last week's board meeting.

"We're a small business," she said, "so having to give back $1,000-plus puts us in a pinch. Hopefully, most of the refunds are over."

But some parents have either lost their receipt or have sewed school logos onto the clothes they bought from Foster, which means they can't exchange their clothes for a refund. That has left many people frustrated, she said.

"It's just been a long couple weeks," she said.

In that time, district schools have used different methods to inform parents of the change, which is especially important for schools that had mailed home fliers telling parents about the new dress code policies.

Now that the school policies will not change this year, officials are trying to spread the message.

For the first few days after the School Board meeting, parents jammed the phone lines at J.D. Floyd Elementary School trying to figure out what was appropriate for their kids to wear.

"Our phones were ringing off the hook," said principal Joe Clifford. He then recorded an automated message that was phoned out to parents to inform them of the changes.

Parents who are unsure about appropriate dress code are encouraged to contact individual schools, which is especially important as parents have a little more than a week to finish all their back-to-school shopping.

Lisa Perez is one of those parents who shopped all summer, trying to get her three children ready for their first day of school at Challenger K-8 on Aug. 18. Now, she has to do more shopping so her kids don't look odd wearing a school uniform that nobody else is wearing.

But she's also left wondering what to do with the new clothes she bought for the dress code. Does she return them, or does she hold onto them, knowing the board will revisit the issue in January.

Robert Guyton is not so lucky.

He already bought a lot of new clothes for his two daughters so that they met dress code standards at Westside Elementary School.

But it's been so long since he bought the clothes, he now has no option other than to hold onto them and hope the board adopts the dress code — a move he supports.

"I can't do anything with them," Guyton said. "That's what I'm upset about."

He doesn't want his daughters to wear the clothes he purchased because he thinks it would expose them to ridicule from other students, which is exactly what he thought would be avoided if the district adopted a dress code.

All three, Perez, Guyton and Foster, said they support the dress code amendments, and none were happy with the School Board's decision.

Foster said it was not fair to leave families guessing up until three weeks before the start of school.

Perez said she just hopes they make a decision early this year.

"I'd like to know how much we've wasted on the dress code — decisions that are still undecided," she said.

"I hope they can start on it and finish it in two meetings and not drag it out all year like we do everything else in this county. I'm tired of the fence sitters that we have on our board."

Times staff writer Tom Marshall contributed to this report. Michael Sanserino can be reached at msanserino@sptimes.com or (352) 848-1430.

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Hernando County School Board's dress code indecision hurts parents, businesses 08/12/08 [Last modified: Monday, August 18, 2008 5:28pm]
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