Show your spirit, not your skin.
That's the message that Millard Public Schools officials are sending to students whose dress — more accurately, lack of dress — is raising eyebrows at football games.
After receiving complaints about students wearing revealing shorts and sports bras, officials are reminding students to dress appropriately.
School board member Paul Meyer brought the issue to the board's attention after people complained to him about what they saw at the Aug. 29 season opener between Millard South and Millard North.
Meyer said fans told him they were taken aback by boys wearing bikini shorts stuffed with socks and by girls wearing bras and short shorts with handprints painted on their bodies.
“I realize I'm an old fogey, but I don't recall kids dressing that way when I was back in high school,” Meyer said.
He called such attire “obscene.”
“One gal, she told me her daughter was sitting right on the aisle, and the guy comes up and turns around, and there it is, right in her face. They were a bit upset by that.”
Officials in some other Omaha-area districts said they hadn't heard of recent complaints about students' attire. Others reported dealing with situations similar to Millard's.
Millard district spokeswoman Rebecca Kleeman said district officials have reminded students, through the daily announcements, of the importance of representing themselves and their schools in a positive manner.
“We have placed an extra focus on appropriate shorts,” Kleeman said.
She said girls can wear sports bras to games if they paint themselves to show their school spirit. If there's no paint, they may be told to put more clothes on. Kleeman said other school districts appear to handle the painted students the same way.
Millard South seniors Chase Zacharias and Ryan Baumgart, both 17, walked into Buell Stadium bare-chested Thursday evening, their red-and-white striped bib overalls unsnapped and hanging at the waist.
The overalls signify membership in their own cheer group that they call “the Crop Squad.”
Both boys said sports bras don't bother them.
“I think the Speedos are too far; that's a lot of skin,” Zacharias said.
Baumgart said he can tolerate Speedos if students wear them in the name of school spirit.
In the parking lot before the Thursday game against Lincoln Southeast, Millard South junior Maddie Donohue, 16, was spreading blue paint on herself and a girlfriend.
The Millard South Patriots' colors are red, white and blue.
Both girls wore shorts and sports bras.
Donohue's arms, belly and back were smothered in paint. Her legs were marked with blue paint handprints.
Dressing up this way has become a pregame routine, she said.
She said sports bras generally cover up more skin than a bikini swimsuit top.
On the other hand, she said, when the boys wear short, tight shorts to call attention to themselves, it makes her uncomfortable. “I think that's crossing the line.”
The Nebraska State Activities Association provides minimal guidance to districts on appropriate dress at sporting events.
Fans can go shirtless at outdoor sporting events during the regular season, the association says. But shirts are required at all postseason play.
Deb Velder, the association's associate director, said schools have the option to be more restrictive. But there has been no move for further restrictions at the state level. As with censorship laws, such decisions usually are based on what's acceptable within the community, she said.
Iowa also requires shirts at postseason events. Other questions of appropriate attire are left up to school districts.
The Elkhorn district follows the NSAA guidelines, said Janna Brock, a district spokeswoman. If administrators see something inappropriate, they can send kids home to change. Dress-up days with themes like neon or camouflage are chosen to avoid problems with inappropriate attire.
Elkhorn High School does have a group of boys who go shirtless and paint letters spelling out Elkhorn on their chests, she said. But school officials typically tell them to put the letters on T-shirts if they know they're going to watch the team play at a school that doesn't allow shirtless spectators.
Generally, girls who paint their skin are allowed to wear sports bras, Brock said. But administrators at the games can make the call, she said.
Diane Ostrowski, a spokeswoman for the Council Bluffs Community Schools, said the district's dress code isn't enforced to the same degree at sporting events as during the school day. But students still have to be presentable.
Omaha Public Schools spokesman Todd Andrews said district officials have heard no complaints about inappropriate dress at games.
Andrews said the responsibility for monitoring dress at games falls to the staff from individual schools.
He said that there is no written OPS policy prohibiting girls from wearing only sports bras on top and that there has been no need to address the issue.
Bellevue Public Schools officials ease up on the dress code at football games, but students are still expected to dress appropriately, said spokeswoman Amanda Oliver.
Although sports bras are not explicitly prohibited at games, staffers discourage girls from wearing them, Oliver said.
The Westside district also follows NSAA guidelines, said Peggy Rupprecht, a district spokeswoman.
Westside Community Schools officials have seen some instances of students not dressing appropriately at after-school activities, she said, “but they haven't been overwhelmed by them.” Boys wearing Speedos have been told to put on gym shorts, she said.
At this week's Millard football games, school administrators were planning to handle any wardrobe incidents on an individual basis, Kleeman said.
“Specifically, we will have administrators at the gate, and they will not let anyone inappropriately dressed into the stadium,” Kleeman said. “And no, red bikini bottoms with socks are not appropriate.”
Mike Pate, president of the Millard school board, said he has not witnessed the attire that prompted the complaints and has not fielded any complaints.
However, Pate said sports bras and bikini briefs should be unacceptable at games. Millard dress codes that ensure appropriate attire during the school day should extend to after-school events, he said.
Meyer said he, too, would like the dress code to apply to the stadium.
Eventually, a change in the weather may deal with the issue, he said. “In a month, I doubt they'll be wearing that kind of attire simply because it will be too cold.”