Students in the capital of Illinois are not allowed to wear hats, bandannas, sunglasses, pajama pants or slippers in school buildings. And that dress code now extends to their bedrooms and kitchen tables.
“We don’t need students in pajamas and all those other things while on their Zoom conferences,” Jason Wind, the district’s director of student support, explained during an online board meeting of Springfield Public Schools this week.
Along with the clothing requirements, the district’s remote learning guidelines mandate that students be “sitting up out of bed, preferably at a desk or table.”
A district spokeswoman, Bree Hankins, said in a statement that the remote learning guidelines were developed collaboratively with teachers, administrators and parents, and that the dress code reflected what the students would be wearing when in school.
The district, which has about 14,000 students, does not expect to be punitive during remote learning, Ms. Hankins said.
“Our hope is that students approach remote learning as they would in a classroom setting, to the extent possible given each student’s individual circumstances,” Ms. Hankins said. “However, we understand the interpretation of the dress code in a remote learning environment will differ from a normal school setting.”
Other prohibited items, according to the district’s handbook, include clothing that is extremely baggy or that displays offensive language or symbols, and shoes that have wheels on the bottom. “Each school has a reasonable interpretation of the dress code depending upon the building’s culture and climate,” the handbook says.
Because of the coronavirus pandemic, the district will start the school year on Aug. 31 with a hybrid program, with students attending in-person classes two days a week. During the three days they are at home, the rules will still apply, the district said.
Christy Schmidt, who has two children that attend school in Springfield, Ill., said she watched some of their Zoom calls last semester, and that there was no correlation between what students were wearing and whether they paid attention.
“How much hassle are you going to give the parent with four kids, working a full-time job trying to support their kids, and their kid attended the Zoom meeting, but he was in pajamas?” said Ms. Schmidt, who has led a support group for parents during the pandemic.
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Ms. Schmidt’s 14-year-old son, Ian, was concise in his thoughts about the extended dress code: “It sounds stupid.”
Many school districts nationwide have turned to remote education in some capacity to try to slow the virus’s spread, but learning at home poses its own challenges. Students who were already disadvantaged have fallen further behind, especially those without home computers or reliable internet access.
Judith Ann Johnson, a member of the school board, said the remote learning rules were in place to make sure students were maintaining high academic standards, not to police every clothing item or where they were having their Zoom calls.
“Everybody doesn’t have a mansion that has a room that’s designated as an office,” she said. “It’s perfectly fine if a child has a desk or if a child is comfortable sitting on their bed while studying. For me that’s fine, as long as they’re sitting up.”
Ian’s younger sister, Keyra, 10, was skeptical that the district could enforce an online dress code. She also said she wanted teachers to let students work from their bedrooms, especially when a common living area might be too noisy to pay attention to their lessons.
“If we have cousins and they’re making noise everywhere, the only place we can actually be is in our bedroom,” she said.
It remains to be seen how strictly the district will monitor what Springfield students wear while learning from home. But additional clothing will be required during the time they physically spend in a classroom, the handbook says: “Masks or gaiters that are solid colors, printed with District #189 or school logos are preferred.”