Thigh’s the limit no longer

Faced with a fashion “ahem,” the Rhinebeck School District is modifying its student dress code for the new school year.

Under the old rules, shorts and skirts worn to school had to extend down to the middle of the thigh. The new rules now state that clothing cannot be “materially disruptive.”

At the Aug. 13 Board of Education meeting, Schools Superintendent Joe Phelan cited the lack of mid-thigh-length shorts and skirt choices in the stores and the difficulty of enforcement as reasons for the change.

Phelan told The Observer after the meeting that parents had expressed “their frustration with the apparent lack of choices in department stores and specialty stores of girls’ shorts that are able to meet the rule as formerly included in the District Code of Conduct.”

Will Meyer, now a junior at the high school, was on the ad hoc committee that recommended the changes. He said that he felt shorter styles had become commonplace.

“It is the social norm. It’s no longer distracting,” he said.

The new dress code was one of three new provisions in the school code of conduct that were addressed at the board’s meeting.

Before the changes, a student caught gambling was faced with suspension. Under the new rules, the one-punishment-fits-all policy will be replaced by a sliding scale that will allow smaller punishment for smaller infractions.

“’Gambling’” is being, and has been, interpreted more broadly on occasion by some staff members than perhaps was originally intended when that particular section of the District Code of Conduct was written, which required suspension for that offense,” Phelan explained.

Meyer added that he felt the new rules were much more pragmatic and that gambling interpretations were getting out of hand.

“Anytime, even if you’re playing ‘Go Fish,’ they interpret it as gambling,” Meyer said, adding that the interpretations got so out of hand that math teachers began calling dice “number rolling cubes.”

The last change adds electronic cigarettes to the tobacco rules at school, where any student found with tobacco products or illegal substances receives “the appropriate disciplinary sanction if warranted, which may include permanent suspension and referral for prosecution.”

Phelan said at the meeting that e-cigarettes haven’t been a problem but the school wanted to cover all its bases. Meyer said he knows students do have them but said they don’t seem to be an issue.

In an email to the Observer, Phelan noted “no specific incident(s) at any of our schools generated the recommended changes to the District Code of Conduct. The changes, relatively minor as they were this year, are an attempt to be proactive and stay ahead of the curve as much as possible.”

The ad hoc group recommending the changes was comprised of school staff, parents and one student, Meyer. The changes were approved after a public hearing at the meeting which had no members of the public in attendance.

Phelan planned to officially announce the new rules when the new school year began last week.

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