Akron school board member Lisa Mansfield, on behalf of befuddled parents and fellow board members, asked Superintendent David James on Monday to clarify what the district means by the words ''jean-style'' pants.
The uniform policy for all kindergarten through eighth-grade children forbids jeans and ''jean-style'' pants.
Akron's principals, especially at the middle schools, don't agree on what pants are too much like jeans, and it's causing parents grief.
Mansfield thought she knew what jeans are.
''I always thought it meant denim,'' she said. ''So as a parent, I don't even know what that means. It depends on what school your students are at.''
Some principals say that if the pants have rivets, they're jean-like.
''Some principals consider a double seam to be jean-like,'' Mansfield said. ''Pockets on the outside of your pants, some principals consider that to be jean-like.''
And it's not just pants.
''Skirts can sometimes come with that double seam or pockets on the outside, too,'' Mansfield said.
Mansfield's son attends Miller South School for the Visual and Performing Arts, which doesn't approve of rivets.
''I had to go shop for new pants for my son because his were of a style that had rivets,'' Mansfield said.
Dockers pants sometimes have rivets, but they're sold locally as clothing that complies with the uniform policy, further confusing parents.
''A lot of our local stores put those in their uniform sections because they are the right colors, they're not jeans, they're made out of a cotton or polyester blend or whatever,'' Mansfield said. ''They're not denim. So they put them there and parents bought them thinking, this is a great deal.''
The school board spent most of a year working on the controversial policy, which it passed by a 5-2 vote at the end of 2007.
Board Vice President Jason Haas made it clear the board was not opening a fresh debate on the policy.
''What we're seeking to do here is to kind of make a uniform, uniform policy.'' Haas said. ''The policy is not going away. It's not being reopened tonight so that we can discuss whether or not it's valid and we can have that discussion again. It is here. It is going to be here tomorrow. It's going to be here at the beginning of next year. We're not going there again.''
Students must wear shirts (with collars) in white, blue or yellow (any shade). Some schools have selected two additional school colors. No hoods, sweatsuits or anything with a logo on it is allowed. Pants are black, khaki or navy blue.
The superintendent said the issue came up at a meeting with administrators two weeks ago.
''Actually in the meeting, the administrators from different schools disagreed about what some of the rules were,'' James said.
He said he's going to meet with students, parents and principals to revise the guidelines.
They all need to be on the same page, because principals often change schools and shouldn't be bringing a different interpretation of the policy with them. If a student gets hand-me-down clothes from an older sibling, what was OK under the previous principal now might be outlawed.
''This principal who comes in has a different idea of what they're supposed to look like than your last principal did,'' Mansfield said. ''I want their behinds in a seat. I don't care if it has rivets on it.''
John Higgins can be reached at 330-996-3792 or email@example.com. Read the education blog at http://education.ohio.com/.