Dunedin, Florida-- A Pinellas County high school is taking a stronger approach to cracking down on its dress code policy, and students are ok with it.
Dunedin High School principal, Reuben Hepburn believes appropriate attire leads to better student behavior.
In order for students to attend a high school dance, they must buy a ticket and sign a dress code/policy contract. They have been doing this for one year, and Principal Hepburn said it works, but this year they changed a few things to make it better and bring more students to the dances- worried the contract might deter students from attending.
"This year parents must sign it and we have made it clear that certain dance moves are not allowed, which meant we also monitored the type of music that was played," explained Hepburn. "But also this year really tried to play music of this generation that the students like."
The contract's dress code restrictions include that boys must wear dress pants, a dress shirt and tie. Girls must wear dresses that are three inches above the knee or longer, and their chests must be covered at all times.
"We are trying to change the student culture by addressing the dress code," said Hepburn. "What they see on television has a great deal of influence on young people, and I'm just going to say, sex is the hottest thing out there right now, so we are seeing it in their clothing."
When Hepburn became principal in 2010, there were more than 4,000 referrals the year before, and since he has instituted new policies, referrals have dropped by nearly half. The third most common referral this last year was dress code violations, and at dances it was an even bigger problem.
"Because clothing at dances had been poorly monitored, we discussed not having dances anymore, but it was never a real idea; what we wanted was a win-win situation," said Hepburn.
So after a year, his team tried the contract idea.
"Last year, some students went to homecoming but it was not as good as this year," said Bethany Flick, a 12th grader who does not mind signing the contract. "I think the music was also so limited last year and the dress code enforcement was too strict last year and some kids were not as excited to go, but this year is our senior year and I wanted to go and not pass it up."
The music is also monitored by the school administrators and this year's homecoming, Hepburn made sure the music was still what the students wanted to hear, but was also appropriate.
"We kept it clean and PG13," said Hepburn.
"We loved it, so many girls went and were in dress-code-style dresses. I was surprised people were not turned away, and happy so many people went and had a wonderful time."
Pinellas County Schools district's spokesperson said it is up to each individual school principal to enforce his or her school's dress code policy. Not all schools are signing contracts, but many are cracking down on code enforcement, even cheerleaders' uniforms are no longer allowed to be worn in classes unless they are more covered up. That is also true for Dunedin High School.