Q&A: Naugatuck High Principal Talks Dress Code

Patch talked to Janice Saam and others about the dress code policy for students and whether NHS should have uniforms.


Some Naugatuck High School parents, and even some students, are asking school officials to implement a uniform policy for NHS students because they don't believe the current dress code policy is working. (See that policy attached to this article, along with a list of FAQs about it.)

Parents are chiming in with their comments on a new Facebook page titled: Parents Against New Dress Code at Naugatuck High School.

And a Naugatuck Patch story about it posted Sunday morning has already gotten more than 100 comments.

Clearly, people are passionate about this subject, and so we've talked to some of the people at the center of the controversy, including NHS Principal Jan Saam, Mayor Bob Mezzo, who is on the school board, and parent Diane Marquis, who helped form the parents' Facebook page.

We'd also love to hear what you think, especially students. Please tell us in comments. Thank you. 

Janice Saam, Naugatuck High School principal, on the dress code:

 Why are people so upset about the dress code policy?

“More of the adults in school are calling out students who are out of dress code. That is where I think the big difference is from passed years in terms of people being upset about it.  …Everyone has made a conscious decision to stick together and enforce this.

“Surprisingly, many students say uniforms are the way to go. We’re talking not about the typical definition of a uniform but more of a uniformed-type dress code. with Dockers-type khakis with a collared shirt. (Probably skirts and blouses with collars would be appropriate for girls, though details have to be worked out.)

“I have not said that is where I’m looking to go. I said if everyone can adhere to the dress code policy we have in place, that would be great. We wouldn’t need a uniform policy.”

She said she told the Board of Education that she would not oppose a uniform policy and believes it needs to be a K-12 policy.

“I don’t think it would be fair to say that it would be only for high school students. I think for some of them, it would make their choices easier in the morning. They would feel less pressure to compete with the latest styles or fads.

“And I understand their dilemma with keeping up with the dress code – it’s hard, especially for girls, to find clothes aren’t ripped or too tight.”

How do parents feel?

“Most of the parents who have spoken to me said they have welcomed me kind of being the heavy, so now there is less argument at home. They can say, ‘Well it’s against school rules so you can’t wear that.’” 

"Some of the parents who were upset about the dress code said it probably would be easier to have a uniform policy. I would imagine there are some who take the opposite view that we’re limiting the ability for students to dress themselves. I can see both sides of the argument.”

What prompted more enforcement of the dress code?

“The students forced us into this; for years, we’d say students were going overboard. We’d have people comment negatively about the way our students were dressed.

“My whole point is you dress for success; you dress to value where you are. School is supposed to be a place of learning. It’s not the beach. It’s not the mall. You’re supposed to bring it up a level when going to school.

“Dress codes are not unique. Many schools are addressing it.”

What about people who can’t afford to pay for uniforms?

Saam said she understands concerns about money but believes it is probably cheaper to buy khaki pants than most jeans, especially designer jeans.

“I remember shopping for clothes for my kids and some of those jeans were $60 or $70,” she said. “You can probably get a pair of khakis from Walmart for $10 or so.”

Thoughts on dress code from parent Diane Marquis: 

I don’t understand some portions of the dress code, such as why girls can’t wear shorts below the knee in gym class, but when it’s swimming time, they can wear a bikini.

I understand that girls dress proactively, and you need to draw the line. But we need to make a dress code that works and is consistent. This one doesn’t work because it is too inconsistent. I think uniforms would be the way go go. Waterbury has done it for years. So have others. Why can’t Naugatuck?

My daughter is a straight A student who was sent out of class one day because she had leggings on. It just seems a little ridiculous.”

Mayor Bob Mezzo on the dress code

"The dress code is nothing but a distraction to focusing on learning and raising the standards on which they will be judged. Unfortunately some parents allow their children to come to school dressed inappropriately. Some do so innocently, others without regard. Rules and regulations have to be drawn somewhere, and that will impact good kids who somehow are in violation. Ripped jeans sound innocent; most of us have worn them. This changes when students intentionally wear ripped pants that exposes under-garments.

"Our children will face much more difficult obstacles when they grow to adulthood. They will work for employers willing to discipline and/or fire them for far less egregious issues than violating a dress code. I very much welcome the debate at our next board meeting (10/11/2012, 7:00 PM at Central Avenue) because I have strong opinions, as a parent, that I will be happy to express in a public setting regardless of how unpopular those opinions might be. As a country we should be prioritizing the challenges we all face educating all our students so that we can compete in the global economy. ...Unfortunately the more sensational issues like dress codes generate much more public debate. In my humble opinion, that is the real problem we face."

Bernadette Nata October 21, 2012 at 12:32 AM
I support Uniforms from kindergarten to the end of high school. It will lower the bullying and picking on students that cant compete financially against their peers that can afford the latest in dress ware Children and young adults take this issue very seriously. When they cant dress in trend it depresses them, especially girls. I really do think that dressing in Uniform will give EACH child and young adult a feeling of acceptance, equal status and it represents a pride for their school. Walmart and other stores once informed that uniforms are being worn in their district may order the garnet, gray and white uniforms or clothing. The Uniform stores should not price gouge or hike prices because Uniforms have to be purchased, if Walmart is not available.. For the entire school year. 3 pairs of winter pants, 3 pairs of summer pants, 3 short sleeve shirts or polos and three long sleeve not to mention 3 skirts and a sweater, should be enough. . It should not cost more than $250.00 dollars. It is cost effective, and the students will not be pressured for asking their parents to buy the latest fashion. Equality for all.
Bernadette Nata October 21, 2012 at 12:37 AM
Children and young adults want the uniforms but dont think its trendy to speak for it.. Remember the times when expressing oneself was important through clothing, actions etc. We all went through it. I support the parents in making the decision since they are LIABLE for their children till they are 18. Children and young adults of course, will discuss with their families at home about all the good points of wearing uniforms and the bad points.
Bernadette Nata October 21, 2012 at 12:40 AM
cost efficient correction above. Typo typing quickly, sorry.
Bernadette Nata October 21, 2012 at 12:43 AM
http://www.walmart.com/cp/School-Uniforms-Shop/1086304 UNIFORMS FOR SCHOOL WALMART
Susan P O'Bernier October 21, 2012 at 02:27 PM
I just went to the web site and the prices are better than in the store, I sent it forward to my daughter, thanks.


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