Portsmouth, RI school district leaders to put new dress code rules in the hands of parents

PORTSMOUTH, R.I. (WHDH) - Leaders of Portsmouth, Rhode Island schools are taking a second look at the district’s dress code after a 5th grader was disciplined for what she wore to school last May.

The 5th-grade girl, Ava, is petitioning for change after she says she was disciplined for wearing shorts the school called ‘too short.’

Parent Lisa McDermott said, “She was pointed out specifically, her teacher said her shorts were a little too short.”

The 2018-2019 student handbook outlines the student dress code and states some examples of inappropriate outfits include tanktops, exposed midriffs, and excessively short skirts or shorts.

There are also guidelines on how to measure the length of shorts and skirts.

“Which is all language that really only pertains to the female students, and that’s what was so problematic to begin with,” McDermott said.

Ava and her friend launched a petition to change the dress code, which caught the attention of school leaders.

At Tuesday night’s school committee meeting, a new dress code was unanimously passed.

“It’s very bare-bones,” McDermott said. “It doesn’t have any language about what the girls can and can’t wear.”

The new dress code essentially says that students must come to school dressed, leaving the student’s outfits up to the parent’s discretion.

“If the parent allowed the child to leave the house in that outfit in the morning, it’s nobody’s business to tell the student that their outfit is or is not appropriate,” McDermott said. “Everybody has a different definition of what’s appropriate.”

The policy would still need to be sent to the Town Council for final approval.

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