November 20, 2013 - What started out as a simple assignment of studying the school's rules of conduct and dress codes for Oxford High School's Leadership Class turned into a rumor concerning "new dress code rules" that spread like wildfire among students on Friday, Nov. 8.
Rumors began that the school was going to ban scarves for both winter warmth and fashion led to rumors that no boots of any kind would be allowed because drugs and weapons could be hidden in them.
By Wednesday, Nov. 13, the rumors died down, according to OHS Principal Todd Dunckley.
"I think they've all realized the silliness of the drama and it seems to have already left the building today," he told this reporter. "The kids are realizing it is back to what it was two days ago and nothing (about the rules) has ever changed."
While scarves are listed in the rules of "outdoor clothing" that students are not allowed to wear, Dunckley told his staff in via e-mail that the scarf rule comes with a history.
He wrote about how the scarf rule is a leftover from the days when "wannabe gang affiliates" wore colored bandanas. This caused problems, so rules were written prohibiting scarves, bandanas and the display of any gang colors or symbols.
"Wording slightly changed over the years and scarves are meant now to be attached to head covering," Dunckley wrote. "Students are allowed to wear scarves around their neck for fashion, not as full head covering. They can also use them to tie their hair back."
"In my time here, I don't think we've had a scarf thing come up," he told this reporter. "Some of these (rules) haven't been reviewed in forever, so if it's not a problem, we didn't try to fix it."
However, Dunckley noted that there are and would be provisions made for students wearing "head gear" for religious purposes and in rare exceptions have allowed students who have undergone some sort of head surgery to cover it while they're healing.
Dunckley also pointed out that many of the rules both in the code of conduct and school dress code are not defining every circumstance and that personal interpretations shouldn't be made either by students or teachers.
"We try to make it short and simple," he said.
While he is not placing the blame on anyone, Dunckley said the Leadership Class teachers "were caught off guard" by the students' reaction and the rumors. He believes had administration been apart of the discussion in the classroom, the rumors would have never begun.
"Not a single administrator was involved in the discussion until this all came up," he said. "They (the teachers) were being proactive and wanted student leaders to be good role models by understanding and abiding by the rules.
When dusting off wording, the interpretation and misunderstanding began. They avoided their first direction; seek clarification from administration."
Dunckley also challenges students to look at other schools rules and believes they will find "they are almost identical everywhere."
Once word spread around the school, it wasn't long before e-mails and phone calls starting coming in from concerned parents.
"Most of the parents that have called are laughing in about 10 seconds and hang-up once they get clarity," Dunckley said. "Give the benefit of the doubt that kids just might be kids with a tad bit of inflammation of the facts."
Other dress code rules that have been talked about included jackets not being allowed in the classroom because of safety issues arising from the Columbine shooting in the 1990s.
Dunckley said safety is not the reason.
"It wasn't all about Columbine concerning coats. Heck, I couldn't even wear a coat to class when I was in school and Columbine wasn't even thought of yet," he said. "A lot of it is the bulkiness and the nuisance of them. If you wouldn't wear it at the dinner table, you can't wear it (in) class."
The smaller, more form fitting fleece zip-up jackets that are worn like sweaters or sweatshirts are allowed.
However, if the administration thinks the building is too cold, they will make exceptions.
"If we get caught off guard by a really cold building, we're going to let you wear your coats on those days and we'll tell you," Dunckley said. "All adjustments have to be made manually, so twice a year we have this problem when we're going into winter and going out of winter into spring."
"You would like to think we have really good integrity to our mechanical system, but we don't," he continued. "It's all human adjustments that have to be made for balance and it takes a couple or three days."
What about PDA?
Another hot topic talked among students is PDA (Public Display of Affection). Rumor had it that students were no longer allowed to hold hands while walking through the hall. Dunckley said the rule says 'no public intimacy in school,' and they are not going to break it down as to what that means.
"If your teachers aren't doing it (showing PDA) with their significant others here or you wouldn't do this in front of your parents then you probably shouldn't be doing it at school," he said. "Holding hands has several different degrees. (As far as) kissing, if it's the same peck you give to your mother or your kid, it's probably OK in a public environment if it's not intimate."
"I tell students a lot of this is middle ground, some of these are way past middle ground," he continued. "There are very few moms and dads anywhere who want kids making out in school."
Dunckley noted that he doesn't see PDA as a huge problem. There are maybe six to 12 cases they have to address out of 1,500 kids.
"I think we might even have less of these problems than when I was a kid," he said with a laugh.
As far as the dress code goes, the main issue Dunckley is with the young ladies.
Sagging pants (for the guys) finally went out of style for everyone and we finally no longer have that problem," he said. "The Number One issue we have is tight fitting clothes for the girls with the yoga pants, but the vast majority of our students dress extremely appropriate for school."
"If this is where our large problems are (as a school), then we're in a really good place," Dunckley added. "If this is what becomes explosive (news) for us we're happy."
OHS dress code
Oxford High School students are not allowed to wear the following:
1. Outdoor clothing: hats, scarves, bandanas, coats, sunglasses.
2. Clothing or jewelry/wristbands with messages regarding drugs, alcohol, tobacco, sex or offensive/suggestive language.
3. Baggy pants or low slung pants that show boxers, shorts or undergarments.
4. Shirts or pants which reveal undergarments (including bra straps).
5. Shorts or skirts that do not meet finger-tip length when arms are hung straight to the side (even with leggings underneath).
6. Tops that are low cut, revealing, midriff-baring, see-through or open mesh. Shirts must have straps that measure approximately the width of three fingers.
7. Pajamas, pajama pants or slippers.
8. Pants/shorts with rips or holes that are not below the finger-tip length when arms are hung straight to the side.
9. Stretch pants of any type, unless covered by skirt/shorts/shirt which cover the anterior and posterior of the hip section of the body.
*The above rules may be amended by the administration as deemed necessary due to fashion trends.
Trevor graduated with degrees in English and communications from Rochester College. He wrote for his college and LA View newspapers before joining The Clarkston News in May 2007.