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Take Note: Out of style; In fashion

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A pioneering self-esteem task force in California has died after seven years because its self-image had faded. Badly.

During the past three years, the Santa Clara County group mustered enough of its 15 members to take official action only three times.

The group might have had better luck prospering had it also tackled the issue of short attention spans, which Rodger E. Cryer, the principal of Hellyer Elementary School in San Jose and a former task-force member, says is a chief cause of the panel's demise.

"I guess social concerns have their season of fashion," he said.

The group claims as its greatest triumph a booklet identifying local agencies that help children boost their self-concept--an important step for children who, once imbued with self-respect, might eschew violence and drugs.

Oddly, as the public increasingly turns its attention to safety concerns, what once was "id" now is out.

The Corpus Christi school district is getting over its recent dressing down in newspapers and on radio and television after the media picked up on a principal's rigid enforcement of the faculty dress code at an elementary school.

Principal Raul Prezas of the Coles Special Emphasis School adheres to the rules of professional attire, which require each male teacher to wear a shirt with collar, slacks, socks, and dress shoes, and each female teacher to choose from skirts, dresses, split skirts, hose, and dress shoes. On Fridays, teachers are allowed to wear denim jeans, sneakers with socks, and the school T-shirt.

Some recent infractions--one female teacher came to school sans hose, and another wore jeans too early in the week--brought warnings from Mr. Prezas, which led to protests from the local teachers' union. The media, including radio personality Paul Harvey, picked up on the story.

The attention has shocked district officials. "This is not the first time we've had something like this," said Scott Elliff, the district spokesman. "It is just the first time we've been on the 'Today' show with it."

In the wake of the attention, Mr. Elliff added, the principal has won community support for his hose rule. And that, they say, is the rest of the story.

--Lonnie Harp

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