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Pajamas ban for students learning from home draws mixed response

Whether taking classes online or in person, public school students in Springfield, Illinois, "must follow the dress code of the building, and so no pajama pants," a district administrator said.

Students in one central Illinois district are barred from wearing pajamas while taking online classes, with education officials there saying sleepwear is "not acceptable school apparel."

The Springfield Public Schools Board of Education this week approved the district's new student handbook, which included language that applies in-person dress codes to remote instruction.

Online students will "be dressed according to the dress code," the handbook states.

"Hats, caps, bandanas, hoods of any type, sweatbands, sunglasses, pajama pants, slippers, or shoes with wheels attached to the bottom shall not be worn in the buildings," according to the boilerplate language.

The students are also being told to get out of bed, sit at a table and look directly into the camera during online classes.

"We don’t need students in pajamas and all those other things while on their Zoom conference," Director of School Support Jason Wind told school board members this week.

“In our regular student dress code, it actually states that pajama pants and so forth are not acceptable school apparel. And so this remote learning information that we put in, with the students' rights and responsibilities that will fall back under that dress code. They must follow the dress code of the building, and so no pajama pants."

The district, which 14,000 pre-kindergarten through 12th-grade students on 33 campuses, is scheduled to begin fall instruction on Aug. 31 under a hybrid model of two days in school buildings and three days online each week. Parents will have the option of full-time remote education.

Some parents questioned the need for the at-home dress code.

John Freml, who'll have a kindergarten and second-grade student in the district this school year, said too many families are already shut out by a digital divide.

"To put more barriers in place, 'You have to sit at a table, you have to dress a certain way,' does not make sense," Freml, who works in information technology at the University of Illinois Springfield, told NBC News on Friday.

"We have to meet families where they are and not put up more restrictions."

But school board member Judith Ann Johnson said she's received no pushback from parents over the no-pajama rule.

"If you're dressed nice you’re better able to perform," she told NBC News on Friday, adding that donning sleepwear during class shows, "you're not taking it seriously."

And any enforcement of the pajama ban will be done with a light touch, district spokeswoman Bree Hankins told NBC News on Friday.

"Our hope is that students approach remote learning as they would in a classroom setting, to the extent possible given each student’s individual circumstances. However, we understand the interpretation of the dress code in a remote learning environment will differ than in a normal school setting," she said in a statement.

"It is understandable that during remote learning our dress code will be flexible. We do not intend to be punitive or to prescribe what students wear at home during remote learning, especially in this period of uncertainty and adjustment for students, families and staff. If there is a specific concern as it relates to dress code, we will address it individually with the student and their family."