Seoul American High School, shown here in this file photo, is considering a new dress code that would require students to wear uniforms.

Seoul American High School, shown here in this file photo, is considering a new dress code that would require students to wear uniforms. (Ashley Rowland/Stars and Stripes)

SEOUL, South Korea — Seoul American High School is considering a new dress code that would require students to wear uniforms.

The draft proposal prompted heated debate, with supporters saying more needs to be done to rein in students who dress inappropriately and critics calling it too strict. Many on both sides complained the uniforms would be expensive and get little use since most students will likely be moving soon as part of the relocation of most U.S. forces in Korea.

Students would have to wear collared polo or button-down dress shirts in a choice of three colors — blue, white or black — with chino-style pants, according to a draft copy obtained by Stars and Stripes.

The policy would ban shorts, skirts and jeans, as well as flip flops, shoes with wheels and headgear. The principal reserved the right to make exceptions based on a student’s religious beliefs or documented medical conditions.

Parents and sponsors were asked to vote on the proposal and offer feedback. The school initially said a decision would be made this week. But Principal Donald “Willy” Williams said an overwhelming response required more time for consideration.

“I have decided to table this draft proposal until our school advisory committee meeting, at the start of the next school year, when all parents and students will be available to give input on the best way forward for our school,” he wrote Tuesday on the school’s Facebook page.

A spokesman for the Department of Defense Education Activity agency in the Pacific said principals must follow a process, including consulting with the school advisory committee, the district and the area office, before implementing such changes.

“There are no steps to implement a new policy for school uniforms at this time,” spokesman Lawrence Torres said in response to a request for comment.

The school said the proposal was drafted based on input from parents and students at a meeting last week. Its stated aim was “to promote a safe, positive learning environment and to establish reasonable standards of health and decency in our schools.”

Rachael Filer, who will have a son at the high school next year, said she supports the idea of uniforms in principle but believes the proposed version would be too formal and costly especially considering the relocation plan.

“We’d be going from no uniform policy to the most restrictive policy that they can design,” she said. “Asking parents to come up with such a uniform that they’re really not going to be able to wear at all beyond their time here, that was unreasonable.”

Nickolaus Choi, who graduated from school in 2015, said the policy should be the same across the board so students can get more wear out of the required uniforms.

“DODEA schools should not have uniforms unless they all have uniform policies,” he said in a telephone interview. “Families move a lot, and uniforms aren’t cheap.”

All DODEA schools have dress codes, but they are usually general guidelines and do not mandate a uniform. Exceptions include Guam, Camp LeJeune and Fort Campbell.

The current policy for Seoul American allows shorts and skirts but states they should be longer than “fingertip length.” It also rules out cleavage and items with inappropriate logos or references to drugs, alcohol, tobacco or gangs.

Denitra Hammond said she always makes sure her sons are properly dressed for school and thinks other parents and the school administration can do more to solve the problem without requiring an expensive uniform.

“We just need to tighten up the policy that we have now and enforce it,” she said. Twitter: @kimgamel

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