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Glad Rags

What started as a simple disciplinary measure exploded into a story that brought national coverage for Easley High School in Easley, S.C.

On the first day of school last month, administrators began giving students who broke the dress code special T-shirts to wear. The fronts of the light-gray shirts are imprinted with "Today I did not meet the SDPC [School District of Pickens County] dress code policy for proper attire," in black lettering. The backs read, "Tomorrow I will dress for success!"

The T-shirt policy's main purpose was to cut down on the number of students missing class while going home to change or waiting for parents to bring in a change of clothing, said Tim Mullis, the school's assistant principal.

The main violators include girls whose midriffs show and boys whose pants sag below their waists, said Betty Garrison, the school's principal.

Half an hour away, at Daniel High School in Central, S.C., and two hours away, at Dutch Fork High School in Irmo, similar T-shirts have been handed out for years. But it's Easley High School that has been getting most the media attention lately, after the Associated Press ran a story on the policy.

"I think it's hilarious that a little T- shirt in a little town like this is picking up headlines," said Mr. Mullis, who describes Easley as a conservative, Bible Belt town.

The school gained coverage from at least a dozen news outlets, including the local CBS station, The Easley Progress newspaper, and statewide and national outlets, including CNN.

Ms. Garrison said she has received e-mails from papers in states from California to New Jersey. "It was a very slow week, obviously, with news," she said about the initial coverage.

"As a new principal, it's been taking time away from what I should have been doing," said Ms. Garrison, who took over in July.

Some parents called the policy humiliating, according to Henry Hunt, the school district's assistant superintendent. But the community has also offered a huge wave of support, he said.

Students are paying more attention now to how they dress. Mr. Mullis said that in the first week of school, which began Aug. 8, administrators handed out 20 to 30 T-shirts a day at Easley High, which enrolls 1,500-plus students. Now, they hand out only one or two shirts each day.

"Students got the message," Mr. Mullis said.

—Nashiah Ahmad

Vol. 22, Issue 2, Page 3

Published in Print: September 11, 2002, as Take Note

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