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Parents sound off on shorts in St. Johns County school dress code survey

Parents sound off on shorts in St. Johns County school dress code survey
Parents sound off on shorts in St. Johns County school dress code survey

ST. JOHNS COUNTY, Fla. – Earlier this month, the St. Johns County School District sent parents a survey seeking input on a dress code that has been a source of controversy for months and is now the subject of a federal investigation.

News4Jax learned Tuesday the district received more than 12,000 responses to the nine-question survey, and although it wasn’t one of the questions, parents used the survey to weigh in on the issue of shorts, which mainly affects female students.

The survey asked parents for their students’ grade levels and aimed to gauge their feelings on a wide range of topics, including: whether it’s OK for students to wear pajamas or lingerie, see-through or mesh clothing, and clothes with rips or tears 5 inches above the knee. The survey also asked about headwear and whether it’s okay for student garments or school supplies to bear “gang graffiti.”

The school district on Tuesday shared the results of the survey following a public records request.

(Full results of the survey are at the bottom of this story)

The results show that the vast majority of parents do not want students wearing lingerie, pajamas or clothing that displays profanity or symbols of drugs. There is also a general consensus backing a rule that bans bedroom slippers, says middle school and elementary school students must wear shoes that have a back or strap on the heel and allows high school students to wear backless shoes. Banning gang graffiti also got wide support.

Other areas of the dress code were more polarizing.

One question asked if parents agree or disagree that “rips or tears in clothing should be lower than the 5 inches in length from the top of the knee.” Of the 12,149 responses, 71% agreed while 29% disagreed with the rule.

When it comes to allowing students to wear hats, bandanas and sunglasses, 63% said they agreed with the current policy that they shouldn’t be worn while 37% said they should be allowed.

When it comes to shorts, the current student code of conduct in the district says skirts, dresses and shorts can be no shorter than 4 inches above the top of the knee, a rule that some parents take issue with, according to the survey.

“Girls need to be able to wear shorts to be able to be comfortable in class and in Florida weather. The current length requirement for shorts discriminates against girls and women,” one comment said.

“As long as we are ok sending our kids to school in the clothes we buy and that it is not showing too much it should be ok!” said another parent.

Meanwhile, some parents said the district needs to “error on the side of conservative” and consider banning yoga pants that are “too tight or revealing.”

Candace Hurman has two sons in the district. She said the results of the survey were disappointing.

“We need to change the conversation from a girl needs to be covered to you know, everybody is responsible for their own actions,” Hurman said. “And I feel like that is not going to change in this county. And that’s the disheartening part of it.”

She also criticized the way the survey was written, saying it didn’t effectively address the main concerns of parents and students.

“I don’t believe that they really put thought into this survey,” Hurman said. “To me, it was just thrown together if they wanted to ask about gang affiliation versus drugs versus whatever, each one should have been a separate question instead of putting them together.”

School district spokeswoman Christina Langston said no decision has been made yet on what the district is going to do next with the results of the survey. Langston said the SJCSD staff had just received the results and will look over them to determine how to move forward.

The distribution of the online survey came about three weeks after News4Jax learned that the U.S. Department of Education launched an investigation into a complaint that the district’s enforcement of its dress code discriminates against female students. Last week, the district turned over a cache of documents to the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights.

For months, the dress code has generated controversy, from student complaints about how staffers’ comments on their attire made them feel “uncomfortable” to a series of poorly edited yearbook photos that resulted in national headlines.

Here are the full results of the survey:

Personal attire may be in the style of the day. Clothing, piercings and accessories displaying profanity, violence, discriminatory messages, sexually suggestive phrases, advertisements, phrases or symbols of alcohol, tobacco or drugs is unacceptable.

Strongly Agree: 8,728

Agree: 2,594

Disagree: 375

Strongly Disagree: 452

Gang graffiti will not be drawn or worn on backpacks, notebooks, folders, papers, clothing or any other object or on the body of any student on school property.

Strongly agree: 9,486

Agree: 2,170

Disagree: 271

Strongly disagree: 222

Pajamas and lingerie shall not be worn as exterior clothing on campus.

Strongly agree: 7,605

Agree: 3,290

Disagree: 873

Strongly disagree: 381

Head gear, including but not limited to: caps, hats, bandanas and/or sunglasses, shall not be worn on campus unless permitted by school administration for religious, medical, or other reasons.

Strongly agree: 3,724

Agree: 3,911

Disagree: 3,091

Strongly disagree: 1,423

Students must wear shoes that are safe and appropriate for the learning environment. Middle school and elementary school students must wear shoes that have a back or strap on the heel. High school students may wear backless shoes. Bedroom slippers are prohibited.

Strongly Agree: 5,274

Agree: 4,875

Disagree: 1,343

Strongly disagree: 657

Clothing must cover areas from one armpit to the other armpit, down to 5 inches in length on the upper thigh. Tops must have shoulder straps and be long enough to adequately cover the waistline and not expose midriff.

Strongly agree: 4,849

Agree: 4,350

Disagree: 1,785

Strongly disagree: 1,165

See-through or mesh garments must be worn with opaque clothing over it or underneath that meets the standard for clothing coverage (as defined in number 7).

Strongly agree: 6,623

Agree: 4,776

Disagree: 454

Strongly disagree: 296

Rips or tears in clothing should be lower than the 5 inches in length from the top of the knee.

Strongly agree: 3,984

Agree: 4,590

Disagree: 2,436

Strongly disagree: 1,139

About the Authors:

McLean is a reporter with WJXT, covering education and breaking news. He is a frequent contributor to the News4Jax I-team and Trust Index coverage.

Digital reporter who has lived in Jacksonville for more than 25 years and focuses on important local issues like education and the environment.