EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

October 18, 2013

Pinkerton officials mull 'unified dress code'

By Alex Lippa

---- — DERRY — The students at Pinkerton Academy could have a totally new look next year.

Pinkerton administrators are considering a unified dress code for students next year. The policy comes after Headmaster Mary Anderson said too many students are wearing inappropriate clothing.

“Kids need to be dressed like they are going to school, not as if they are going to the beach,” Anderson said recently.

She has proposed an option where students would choose from a selection of clothes from a specified vendor. The clothes would be red and white, with the Pinkerton logo embroidered on the shirts.

Anderson said she didn’t know how often students have violated the current dress code, but she said it was too often.

“The amount of time that our staff spends addressing dress code issues is ridiculous,” she said. “Especially for our male staff, I don’t like putting them in that position.”

The Pinkerton dress code prohibits tank tops, dresses with spaghetti straps or any tops that have shoulder straps of less than two inches. Shorts and skirts can be no higher than knee length.

“Too much skin is being shown,” Anderson said.

The proposal has caused a stir in the Pinkerton community, with parents and students having a wide range of opinions.

There was a meeting for parents Sept. 26 and students modeled some potential options.

“It’s like Pinkerton Academy meets ‘Sound of Music,’” said Beth Doherty, who has a sophomore at Pinkerton and two more children in lower grade levels. “We were told this would be a unified dress code. What was presented to us was a uniform.”

One vendor which is being considered is Lands’ End. Options including polo shirts, khakis and sweaters are available and specific Pinkerton options can be browsed on the company’s website.

“I just don’t get why we would have to go through Lands’ End,” said Rose Noetzel, who has a daughter who will be entering Pinkerton next year. “The cost is insane.”

Anderson said cost would be a major factor when making the ultimate decision on the vendor.

“This is going to be a very thoughtful process before we end up making the final decision,” she said. “The reason we started with Lands’ End is that they’ve been good to deal with and they guarantee to last a lifetime.”

Noetzel, whose daughter Casey is a senior at Pinkerton, said she estimated that it would cost $650 to buy a wardrobe to last her daughter through the entire school year.

“These pants are $30 to $50, the shirts are between $30 and $40,” Noetzel said. “I generally like to bargain shop and this isn’t what this is at all.”

Noetzel didn’t like what she saw modeled at the parents’ meeting last month.

“They were not flattering at all,” she said. “If you have a flaw, which I’m sure many teenagers do, you’re going to look awful and I worry what they will do to a child’s self esteem.

But not every parent is against the dress code.

“I think it’s a great idea,” Donna Spurrell said. “I think it puts everyone on an even playing field. They don’t have to wear the ‘in’ clothing or have to worry about style. This is a semi-private school, not a fashion show.”

Spurrell did say she hoped there were more options than Lands’ End.

“Lands’ End is a little pricey, but it lasts,” she said. “I hope they also can give us one more vendor.”

The debate has caused a family divide in Spurrell’s home. Her son, Michael Agresti, is vehemently against the idea of uniforms, or a “unified dress code.”

“I think it takes away a person’s right of self expression,” said the 14-year-old freshman. “It’s too bland and outdated.”

But Michael’s twin sister, Sara, could see where the administration was coming from.

“It’s a semi-private school and it’s stereotypical for them to have uniforms,” she said. “A lot of students have been getting in trouble for what they wear, so I get it.”

Anderson said there are plenty of opportunities for students to show their individuality — after school.

“On the weekends, they can express themselves however they want,” she said.

Anderson said research done in educational journals has shown there are other benefits to a dress code.

“When you eliminate competition when it comes to clothing, then bullying and harassment are eliminated as well,” she said. “It also helps with safety and security because you can tell who doesn’t belong.”

Doherty disagreed with Anderson’s last point.

“Those clothes are pretty easy to find,” she said. “Someone could easily know Pinkerton’s dress code and still be able to blend in.”

Anderson said many more details to be ironed out and school trustees will have the final say. Anderson hopes to have a final plan by the end of the school year, her final one at the school.

“It’s something that’s still in the very beginning of the process,” she said. “We want to put a lot of work into this, to make sure we get this right.”