Safety issue cited on bookbags
For students who will step into classes at Alta High School this fall, there will be new subjects to learn, new teachers to listen to and new roles to handle in the activities they participate in.
There will also be a new dress code for them to follow.
Members of the Alta School Board accepted proposed changes in the student handbook pertaining to the dress code from new high school principal Scott Johnson at their monthly meeting Monday night, clarifying what clothing and apparel items will and will not be permissible inside the high school.
The changes to the code, which will apply only to students in seventh through 12th grades, were made after a number of faculty members brought their concerns on the subject to the attention of Johnson, and Johnson said the recommendations from the teachers were vital to the creation of the new dress code.
"The support that came from the teachers was very critical," Johnson said. "They came in to me when I first came here and talked about what they wanted and what they wanted to see, and we came up with the outline of what the dress code would be together. They were very instrumental in this."
While the majority of ideas came from AHS teachers, Johnson also gathered information on the subject by reading different dress codes implemented in several other school districts across the state. He also read over the old AHS policy numerous times to figure out what needed to be changed and what could remain the same before taking the final version of the new code before the school board for approval.
Johnson said he felt it was critical to be proactive and give people a chance to reflect on the new dress code before school starts rather than making wholesale changes to it in the middle of the academic year.
"I feel it's very important to get it out to the public now and let them know about what the dress code will be so parents and students can go out and buy clothes that will fit the dress code," Johnson said. "That's why we're doing this well before the start of school."
The new code covers an array of subjects, including brief and revealing clothing, saggy pants, jackets and coats, clothing and apparel with profanity and alcohol endorsements and items such as dog collars, chains, hats and bandannas. It also outlines the disciplinary measures that will be taken if a student shows up to school wearing inappropriate clothing or apparel or refuses to take off a hat or bandanna after a teacher asks them to.
It also deals with the topic of bookbags, as students will no longer be able to bring large bags into their classrooms or study halls. The new dress code states that any bag carried into classrooms must be smaller than a book and remain on a student or the back seat of their chair, a change from the old policy which allowed students to carry bags of any sizes anywhere in the school.
Johnson told the school board the biggest reason for including the bookbag ban in the code was to promote a safe environment for everyone in the high school.
"It's a safety concern first and foremost," Johnson said. "When you get 20 kids coming into a class and putting their bookbags down in the aisle, it creates a safety problem from the standpoint of creating a fire hazard and just trying to walk back and forth down the aisles.
"Secondly, in the day and society that we live in, there could be a gun in the bag," Johnson continued. "We think that it won't happen here in Alta. But, if you go back and look historically at where violent incidents have taken place, they've been in small to medium schools, because the bigger-sized schools have already taken care of the problem and deal with it on a daily basis."
Johnson said he knows it will take some time for students to adjust to the code, but said he and AHS teachers share the same viewpoint on the subject and will enforce the policy beginning the first day of the year.
"Anytime you change a policy like this there will be kids that will say this isn't the way it was last year and will want to try to keep it the way it was," Johnson said. "The faculty and staff completely support this, however, and that's critical. If there wasn't the support of the faculty and staff in enforcing this, then it would really just be words on a piece of paper."