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Lakewood changes uniform policy

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  • | 4:00 a.m. September 22, 2010
Varsity cheerleader and Miss Lakewood Ranch Jessica Sthreshley said the squad will adapt to the change.
Varsity cheerleader and Miss Lakewood Ranch Jessica Sthreshley said the squad will adapt to the change.
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LAKEWOOD RANCH — Administrators at Lakewood Ranch High School have changed the school’s uniform policy for athletes, making it compliant with the school district’s existing dress code.

The change primarily affected the school’s cheerleading squads, which traditionally have worn uniforms to class on game days, as well as athletes on the dance and cross country teams, among others.

“The administration felt if we were going to enforce the Manatee County School District dress code, we needed to be consistent with it,” Principal Linda Nesselhauf said. “We’re willing to make some compromises, but it is difficult to monitor all the uniforms. We need to work to make them dress-code compliant.”

Varsity cheerleaders made T-shirts replicating their uniforms and wore them to school Sept. 17 after learning they would no longer be allowed to wear their uniforms to school. The demonstration originally was one of protest by members of the squad but later changed after seniors on the team met with Nesselhauf Sept. 16. Some alternatives — such as wearing biker shorts with uniforms, among other options — were offered as compromises.

“We understand where she’s coming from, but we (had) felt like we were being punished for doing good things,” varsity cheerleader Destiny Williams, a junior, said. “We’re just really appreciate Ms. Nesselhauf made a compromise with us. We think it’s fair.”

Varsity cheerleader and Miss Lakewood Ranch Jessica Sthreshley said the change made sense, but she was still upset about changing the school’s tradition partway through the year.

“I don’t think I’ll get over it,” she said. “It’s really important to me (to wear our uniforms to school). It represents part of who we are as students. When we wear our uniforms, people recognize who we are and they know there’s a game.

“If we didn’t get to wear our uniforms to school, there would be no school spirit,” she said. “I’m obsessed with school spirit.”

Nesselhauf said she was pleased to work with students and coaches toward a solution.

“They were all gracious,” Nesselhauf said of the cheerleaders. “I know some were disappointed, but they all seemed willing to work toward that.”

Recognizing the change came three weeks into football season, Nesselhauf said the decision to enforce the dress code for student athletic uniforms came after parents and faculty raised concerns about it, and after administrators noticed a correlation between student athletes wearing non-compliant uniforms and an increase in dress-code violations school-wide.

Nesselhauf said the issue is one that will be reviewed next summer so squads can make any adjustments to uniforms.

The policy adopted by Lakewood’s administration is not unique to the school. Braden River High School also applies the county policy to uniforms.

“Since day one, they’ve known their uniforms have to be compliant,” Braden River’s Assistant Principal Don French said, noting many student athletes have created their own T-shirts to meet the code. “The kids know it and accept it.”

Contact Pam Eubanks at [email protected].


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