A dozen Knox County Schools students turned out to address their concerns about and offer suggestions for the School System’s dress code during a student forum in Hardin Valley Academy Thursday, Aug. 18.
The forum was a response to Farragut High School sophomore Hollie Sikes’ petition, which she posted online at change.org Aug. 13. Her petition challenged rules regarding females’ shorts. Since Monday, Aug. 22, the petition has generated 3,558 supporters.
“We just wanted it to be easier to find clothes that fit the dress code,” Sikes said after the meeting. “It’s not that we don’t want to be covered, we just want some liberties.”
A number of students said they wanted minor changes, such as measuring shorts by knuckle-length rather than the currently required fingertip length.
“I think being able to express yourself with clothing shows people the way we are,” Olivia Manning, an HVA student, said.
Sierra Janeskie, a HVA freshman, said she thinks the current rule on shorts is unrealistic.
“You are valuing clothes rather than education,” she said.
However, Maggie Olson of HVA said she did not think there was a problem with the dress code.
“I think everyone should look professional, like a workplace,” Olson said.
Shane Embury of HVA suggested the School District go to uniforms to avoid confusion.
Sydney Rowell, a Hardin Valley Academy student and incoming student representative on Knox County Board of Education, organized the student-run forum at HVA so students could address the issue, she said.
Sikes said she plans to ask the School Board to reform the dress code.
The next Board meeting is scheduled for 5 p.m., Wednes-day, Sept. 2, in the Main Assem-bly room of City County Buil-ding in downtown Knoxville.
Rowell said she would take students’ comments and suggestions from the meeting to the School Board when it meets in September.
Abbey Harris, Knox County Schools Public Affairs specialist, said that based on feedback from principals and the community the Board last year made revisions to the dress code policy, which was adopted in 2009.
“The policy went through a first and second reading in Board meetings open to the public,” she said. “At neither meeting did any student or parents raise concerns regarding any restrictions for males or females in the policy as it stood to be approved.”
“Any time you have a policy and you have more input from those directly impacted by the policy, that policy would be better,” Karen Carson, Knox County Board of Education District 5 representative, said.
However, “I think there are more efficient and effective ways to approach the problem,” Carson said. “I’m glad [Sikes is] bringing up her concerns, but I think she should have talked to her School Board representative, Susan Horn [5th District board representative-elect] or me, and found out how do we make a change here.
“Generally, it’s hard to get [the dress code policy] addressed. We don’t want teachers spending time on the dress code; we want them teaching. We want [the code] to be as easy to follow and understand as possible,” she added.
“We talk to the kids about the Knox County Schools’ dress code, and we want them to comply with the dress code. If the kids have an issue, we want them to correct it rather than face the consequences,” Ryan Siebe, FHS principal, said.
Horn, who will assume Car-son’s seat on school board beginning Sept. 1, said she had not spoken to Sikes before Aug. 18, but she had talked to other students and parents about the dress code.
“[The code is] not that vastly different from the past, and schools are enforcing it a little more strictly than they had been,” Horn said. “The feeling is with the length of the shorts, fingertip length, the students feel they are forced to wear pants because it is difficult to find shorts that length. That where the frustration lies.”
“I think the intention of the policy is a good one — to encourage modest dress — but it is difficult to carry that out I reality.”