PROVO — When it comes to Dixon Middle School's new dress code policy, Provo School District superintendent Randall J. Merrill says he stands by the school's administration in their decision to compromise — and it's a done deal.

During a school board meeting this week, Merrill congratulated Dixon Middle principal Rosanna Ungerman on how she handled the dress code debate and decision-making process.

Merrill said, in an interview with the Deseret News after the meeting, "I like what they have done. And I support them."

Merrill said he believes it was a good decision-making process. "They involved a lot of parents, they took a lot of input, they made adjustments as they went," he said.

Some parents now say they feel defeated. "A lot of parents aren't happy about this. But it seems futile at this point," said parent Dalene Rowley, in an interview on Thursday.

The original dress code proposal would have required students to wear collared shirts along with khaki, brown, green, navy or black pants. Shorts or skirts below the knee were allowed. No logos were permitted. Earrings were the only piercings allowed.

About 300 parents voted on the proposal. The dress code committee had stated 80 percent support would be needed for the measure to pass.

Ungerman said the dress code committee weighed all areas of input, including parent votes, along with surveys or votes of teachers, PTA members and Community Council members. There were also student essays.

In an unscientific process, the committee determined the proposal had 78 percent support.

Ungerman declined to release the statistical data or explain numerically how the committee came up with 78 percent.

Since the level of support for the dress code was so high, the committee recommended a compromise. Along with the originally proposed dress code, modest jeans will be allowed and any school logo can be on shirts.

Parent Julie Webb calls the committee's solution an "underhanded" move. "I am disgusted with the matter," she said. "I feel they were dishonest about the entire thing."

Ungerman said, in a written statement: "I openly admit we did not completely meet the 80 percent requirement the committee itself set. At the same time, I have a hard time completely disregarding such a large majority voice desiring a stronger standard."

Merrill says he understood the dress code committee felt 78 percent was close enough to 80 percent. "That is the message I got," he said.

Merrill issued a written statement for the Deseret News on Wednesday:

"While the school administration has the authority to make this decision alone, I was impressed with the process used to come to this decision, especially the strong involvement of parents and the willingness to adjust the early draft policy after input from stakeholders.

"That the school has received near consensus on the final policy is a tribute to the leadership the community has demonstrated in their desire to rally around their school."

With just a few weeks before school is out for the summer, parents interviewed say they — or their children — may make more noise in the fall when the dress code policy officially goes into effect.

"There is nothing we can do right now," Rowley said.


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