MOULTRIE -- Mr. Brown is cracking down on students getting too big for their britches -- or, more precisely, wearing britches far too big for them.

Principal Nathan Brown this week said he intends to more strictly enforce the dress code next year at C.A. Gray Middle School. Students won't get a warning even on the first day of school, he said.

Boys favor wearing pants four or five inches wider than their waist.

"They refuse to wear a belt. They are walking around holding their pants with their hands," Brown said.

"We're not going to let you parade around our campus. ... Instead of saying you look OK and tie your pants up and you still look baggy and tacky and sloppy, we're going to put you in the alternative school that day. You'll never go past one classroom. We're not going to put you on display," he said.

Enforcement of the dress code implemented a couple of years ago has been somewhat soft, Brown said. Inconsistent enforcement of the rules isn't working, he said.

Suspension from school is counterproductive, he said. Stringent attendance requirements of the No Child Left Behind Act take that disciplinary strategy away from schools, he said.

Three teachers and a paraprofessional will staff the alternative school at Gray, Brown said.

"We're going to be prepared on that very first day to tell 75, 80 or 100 kids, 'You will not walk around this campus, and, no, we're not sending you home. We'll put you in the cafeteria. You can call your parents to bring a belt or the right clothing,'" he said. "You've got to start Day One dealing with people who says, 'I'm going to disobey your rules.'

"I believe we have the right to enforce something that is socially acceptable in our community. I believe that," he said.

Meanwhile at Willie J. Williams Middle School, Principal Scott Michie will continue to stock belts at the school to cinch oversized dress code infractions.

"You'd be surprised at how many kids don't own a belt," Michie said, acknowledging that baggy bottoms are the top problem at Williams.

Girls at both schools can wear shirts untucked if they don't reveal any skin, but girls at Gray will not be able to wear shorts next year. They can wear capris, Brown said. The girls at Willie J. Williams will continue to be allowed to wear shorts at permitted lengths.

The rule has been that shorts will be worn at least fingertip level (meaning at or longer than where an individual's fingertips extend down the side of their legs), but many girls have been abusing that privilege wearing shorts that are inappropriately revealing for some. Skirts can be worn as long as they reach fingertip level.

Both middle school principals met with their school councils to determine how to enforce the dress code next year. They urge parents to familiarize themselves with the rules before buying school clothes this summer and to make sure children know them as well.

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