It's a classic high school situation. Teacher calls you out on a dress code violation. Big trouble.
For years, the code in Hernando County, too, has been classic. Leave those cut-up jean shorts and Budweiser T-shirts at home. Cover up those skimpy halter tops. Lose the miniskirt.
But even before the Hernando County School Board last week postponed plans to require an even dressier standard — collared shirts and slacks or skirts for all the elementary and middle schools, plus Springstead High in Spring Hill — it was clear that some high-schoolers were getting called out a lot more than others.
Last semester, 406 students at Springstead were cited for violating the code. Seven miles away at Nature Coast Technical High, officials found just one violation.
Hernando High cited three students, while Central High caught 63.
"Sounds to me like someone is over-addressing this issue, or the other schools aren't addressing it at all," observed School Board member Pat Fagan.
At some schools, it's all about jeans.
Kids at Nature Coast can get away with ripped jeans, said freshman Libbie Sowder. Not so across town at Springstead.
"Any rips in your jeans, you get a dress-code violation and you have to go straight to in-school suspension," said Springstead senior Amber Sieni.
"Even if it's at your ankle, a little rip in the jeans," junior Victor Latty added. "I think they're a little too strict."
Officials at Springstead referred all questions on the matter to superintendent Wayne Alexander. He said the school has been particularly diligent, and that's a good thing.
"I think the explanation for Springstead is they monitor it twice a day," Alexander said. "They attend to it in great detail. (But) it should be applied universally."
Nonetheless, he said, Springstead's plan to test-drive the dressy look on behalf of the county's high schools next fall will be postponed indefinitely.
Schools with existing uniform policies will keep them. But board members agreed an economic downturn is no time to be sending parents out to buy new clothes.
Still, several members voiced concern over enforcement of the existing code.
"In visiting some of the schools, I have a strong feeling that some schools are just not paying attention," said Sandra Nicholson.
Gender also seems to matter when it comes to dress code violations. Of the 63 students cited at Central High last semester, 55 were girls, according to district data. At Springstead, more than five girls were cited for every boy.
Hernando High saw an even split of 16 male violators and 16 female last year. But by the fall, the student body appeared to have cleaned up its act substantially, with just one girl and two boys in trouble.
A few Nature Coast students were puzzled to learn that just two girls dressed inappropriately last year, and one more this year. Teachers enforce the dress code with great vigor, they said.
Well, sort of.
"They do sometimes, but not all the time," admitted freshman Gabby Solorzano. "It depends what teacher."
Tom Marshall can be reached at [email protected] or (352) 848-1431.