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Dress Code Eliminates Short Shorts, Dresses

A committee of staff, parents and students revised the dress code for Chatham Middle School for the upcoming school year.

When Chatham Middle School students step onto campus on Sept. 6, things will look a little different.

Principal Robert Accardi said that after numerous concerns reported from parents and teachers in the last academic year, the school decided to revise its dress code.

"We haven't had a revision in a good many years," Accardi said, "[but] last year we noticed a real change in some of the clothing that had become popular with the kids."

The new fashions for the tween and young teens who attend the school "were very revealing," Accardi said. "Very short dresses, very short shorts, and tops that were revealing more skin than we thought was appropriate for a school environment."

At first Accardi said that the school was permissive of the style because of the weather. "Last year it was very, very hot when school stoarted," he asid. "We thought [the students' clothing] would change back to something more reasonable as the year went on and it got colder. But it didn't.

"We were in a bind. Fashions had changed, but our dress code was not in line," he said.

Complaints came in from teachers, parents and students themselves. "The kids would wear the clothing to be like the other kids, but then when they were in a position where they were with adults, we were noticing that they were uncomfortable," Accardi said. "The feeling that this is a school and a place of learning was being encroached upon."

A committee of 20 staff members, four members of the PTO and seven students, with representatives from each grade, was formed to revise the dress code.

"I asked for suggestions from the staff for kids who would have a mature outlook, who would be able to handle a frank discussion about the dress code," Accardi said. "I called their parents and explained what we were doing, and they agreed to let their kids be part of it."

The revisions prohibit:

  • flip-flops
  • pocket chains
  • sunglasses
  • bandanas
  • hats
  • hoop earrings
  • halter tops
  • tank tops
  • tops with spaghetti straps
  • tops that expose the midriff
  • see-through blouses
  • any clothing with the names of alcohol, drugs or tobacco product, or inappropiate language.

Additionally, shorts must have a 5-inch inseam, and skirts and dresses must extend below the student's fingertips, and shoes or sneakers, not sandals, are required for physical education classes and science labs.

The revisions also include the disciplinary steps for violations of the dress code.

"We wanted to make the point that that kind of clothing is fine for the weekend, but this is not the time or the place," Accardi said.

Accardi said he hopes that the new dress code both protects the learning environment at Chatham Middle School and teaches students to use their judgement when dressing for different situations.

"The first immediate goal was for the focus to be on school and not on clothing. And the longer effect, and this is something we can only speculate about, but we hope that this will build a greater understanding of the different venues that kids will experience in the world," he said.

The committee also researched vendors that sold clothing compliant with the revised dress code at a reasonable price. "We were mindful that an initial reaction [from parents] would be, 'Oh my, this is going to be an expensive proposition.' So we found clothing that was reasonably priced," Accardi said.

Vendors include The Gap, Target, Old Navy and J. Crew. "We are sensitive to the fact that these are difficult economic times, and our intention was not to cause economic hardship."

Accardi is part of a coalition with school principals from Essex, Somerset and Morris Counties. He said they meet a few times a year to discuss the challenges they are facing in their schools. "This was the most popular topic that we discussed in our last meeting in May," Accardi said. "Everybody's feeling this.

"Advertisers have pushed our kids to a point where they think this is what they're supposed to look like. ... [It's not] any longer just the educational intent of the school, it became sort of a fashion show."

In case you missed it:

Coming up next:

On Friday, Lafayette Elementary School

On Saturday, Southern Boulevard School

On Sunday, Milton Avenue School

On Monday, Washington Avenue School

On Tuesday, the new Anti-Bullying Policy and a survival guide for seniors.

Ron Swanson July 28, 2011 at 01:26 PM
These revisions are long overdue, but why does this apply only to the Middle School? The problem being addressed here is also present in the High School and to a lesser extent at Lafayette. Uniform dress standards should be applied District-wide.
bill w August 03, 2011 at 10:52 PM
No student will strictly adhere to these rules, and no teacher will be a pest in enforcing it. Not being able to wear flip flops? Really? Also, short shorts will still be present. If anything, students will rebel, against the school, and against any teacher/employee that pesters them on dress code. Also, from what I hear from my kids, Accardi is not well liked within the student body. This can only hurt his image with students.
goldjohn August 09, 2011 at 11:50 AM
If students "rebel" against the authority figures of their school because of an eminently reasonable dress code, then the problem is with the students, not the code or the administration. My daughter and her friends seem happy to comply.
heretoolong August 09, 2011 at 02:12 PM
@ Bill W - who cares if the kids like the principal? He has a really tough job to do and he's doing it. I give him all the respect in the world. I wouldn't want his job.
middle schooler September 01, 2011 at 04:46 PM
I like mr accardi!!! Look, i am in the middle school, and it was totally right to change this dress code. Things are totally nuts. By the way, we r allowed flip flops, as long as they arent those rubber ones. Look, u havent been 2 this school. WE NEED A NEW DRESS CODE!!! Mr accardi has the right idea. Cleavage and jean shorts worn as underwear r not appropriate.
The Guy September 01, 2011 at 05:53 PM
Rt124Guy, Hey I agree with you on this. Said to say, parents are not watching their kids. I have see girls in Jr HS and the HS that look like hookers from 42nd and showing more skin. Lets get real Chatham Parents - This is YOUR Fault take responsibility for your kids!!!
The Guy September 01, 2011 at 05:54 PM
bill w, I bet if Accardi was to enforce the rules you WOULD cry and try to sue him. Just a guess.
The Guy September 01, 2011 at 05:57 PM
middle schooler - GOOD for you to standup for yourself. Someday you will make a difference.
middle schooler September 01, 2011 at 09:53 PM
Thank you :)
bob richard September 02, 2011 at 11:37 PM
This is absolutely pathetic. Are we living in Nazi Germany? How can kids stand up for principles or other petty idiots taking away their rights? It's great to know the kids are just being taught to bend over and take it.
bob richard September 02, 2011 at 11:39 PM
If the law deems it okay it doesn't matter what you think about it. Stop trying to make people dress the way you want them to. You don't get to decide what other people want to wear, stop acting like you do.
bob richard September 02, 2011 at 11:42 PM
Yeah who cares if the person in charge of the school makes rules that infringe on first amendment rights or if he's a complete buffoon, as long as he's principal he deserves respect!... Seriously?
bob richard September 02, 2011 at 11:49 PM
Unfortunately for you, I don't believe sticking up for your rights denotes rebellion. The problem is with the Nazi mentality of the school. I'm sure your daughter and her friends are happy to comply because that's all they've ever been taught to do - comply with authority. Next time she wants to wear flip flops to school I'd like to see justify her not being able to wear them.
bob richard September 02, 2011 at 11:50 PM
preach it
bob richard September 02, 2011 at 11:53 PM
Yes, let's prohibit everyone from wearing flip flops and short shorts! How would you like to be forced to wear a Burqa wherever you go just because people think it's inappropriate to see your face? Would you go along with it? Shut up you Nazi fool. Stop trying to make people adhere to your standards.
The Guy September 03, 2011 at 04:40 PM
bob richard, give me a break. we don't want to take the kids rights away but to give them some decency. I don't want to see hookers in school or boys with their crotches by their knees. The girls should be sent home and boys pants pulled up and belted so they don't look like they have a pile of crap in their pants. It's common sense. The parents and media are to blame for the way the kids look.
Johnny Hancock October 16, 2011 at 08:16 PM
Wow. First, Bob Accardi is not a good person. He tries to intimidate these kids. I am currently a Junior in High School and I remember what it was like to be in Middle School. Even the teachers teaching there don't think of him as a nice guy. He is power hungry, and is infringing upon students rights. His catch phrase among students was "Let's take a walk" because he would accuse the students of doing wrong. It's not the schools job to enforce a dress code, it should be up to the parents.
sdasdasdasd April 17, 2012 at 06:18 PM
Im here for big bob
sdasdasdasd April 17, 2012 at 06:18 PM
BIG BOBERT MAXIMUM ACCARDIOSO
sdasdasdasd April 17, 2012 at 06:19 PM
BIIIIIGGG BOBBY ACCARD

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