School Board tweaks uniform policy

Published 8:04 am Thursday, September 9, 2010

JACKSON — Polices used by the Northampton County Schools will be seeing some adjustments.

On Tuesday, the Northampton County Board of Education voted to tweak the schools system’s uniform policy.

In addition, during a separate motion, board members decided to appropriate funds in order to utilize the North Carolina School Board Association’s Policy Manual Customization Service to update the board’s policy manual.

Parental Involvement Coordinator Tanya Byrd Robinson

presented the board with recommended adjustments to the school uniform policy. Robinson said she worked with principals and parent representatives as well as Board Vice Chair Marjorie Edwards on the modifications.

Those adjustments included to add gray shirts as acceptable to be worn as part of the uniform. Furthermore, the popular “silly bands” bracelets were added to a list of prohibited items.

Edwards also brought recommended amendments to disciplinary actions, at the administrator’s discretion, for noncompliance with the uniform policy.

“We don’t want to send children home, we want to give children a chance to stay in school,” she said about the recommended disciplinary actions. “Sometimes you might need to reinforce it more times than once.”

Students will receive a verbal warning and have to cover the prohibited items for the first offense in comparison to the current covering of the items and parental notification.

The second offense will result in actual verbal notification to the parent rather than the maximum three to five day suspension formerly on the policy.

For the third offense, the student will be suspended a maximum of three to five days compared to the previous stipulation of a five to 10 day suspension.

The fourth offense will result in the student being suspended the maximum of five to 10 days.

The committee further recommended that the Alert Now system be used to notify parents of the updates within the next two weeks.

Also suggested was a laminated copy of the adjusted policy be made available at each school with in the next two weeks.

Board member Rhonda Taylor said she had been approached by principals and athletic directors about allowing students to dress up on game day (i.e. football, basketball) with jerseys. She also inquired about the t-shirts bearing the schools’ mascots or emblem, sold for fundraising that are also popular on game day.

Robinson said it was something that the committee could talk about, but would have to come back before the board for approval.

Edwards said she would like to take the matter of dressing up on game day back to the committee.

“Ms. Robinson and I (as well as others on the committee) will take care of that and have answer for you at the next meeting,” Edwards said.

Edwards motioned to adjust the uniform policy to allow gray shirts to be worn and “silly bands” to be added to under the section “Other,” which includes prohibited items as well as the changes to the disciplinary actions for noncompliance.

Assistant Superintendent Phil Matthews suggested holding off on placing posters within the schools until the board and committee were finished with adjusting the policy. Edwards agreed.

After further discussion, Board member Erica Smith-Ingram moved to suspend the rules as it pertains to policy 4340 to amend the dress code. Taylor offered a second. The motion passed without objection.

Ingram seconded the motion put forth by Edwards and it passed without objection.

Meanwhile, the board is looking to update their policy manual through the North Carolina School Board Association, but the updates will come with a price tag of $22,900.

Ingram, who serves on the policy committee, presented the board with three options of updating their policies.

She said that while several of the 254 polices have been updated over the previous years, there has not been a full policy update since 1995-96.

Option one would have the policies updated by the policy committee with guidance from the board attorney. Ingram estimated that it would take approximately 20 sessions, each about two to three hours in length. She noted each board member would receive their board travel in order to attend each meeting. With that estimated cost along with other costs in supplies and refreshments the total approximated expenditure was $2,200. She said attorney costs were not included in the estimate. There would be no ongoing costs.

Ingram added that none of current board members are policy analysts/drafters.

Option two would allow all of the policies to be updated through the NCSBA Policy Manual Customization Service, which would include four sessions (several can be held online). Ingram said the board would have a voice as to how the policies are drafted. The service provides automatic updates except board initiated proposed amendments and cost.

“It is a significant cost of $22,900,” Ingram said. “If you divide (the cost) out it’s been about 15 years since the policies have been updated—it doesn’t look like such a large amount.”

Option three would utilize Polices to Lead Schools, a smaller service through NCSBA, which would require officials to sit down with the board attorney and go over each policy in 10-15 sessions. Ingram said the initial fee would be $2,500 and an annual fee of $700 and there would be unforeseen costs for the board attorney’s service.

Ingram said the policy committee recommended option two. She added the money would come from the budget expense line item for legal fees and contracting, which has a current balance of $98,000.

Ingram said to go through each policy to update them would be a large task to take on as there are seven different series, each with numerous pages and polices to look over.

“Some of our polices are on the website and some are not, but this is a board function to get our polices together; so we have to do something,” she said.

Board Chair Bill Little asked if Ingram was recommended to make the decision now.

She said she would as the district currently had the money in the budget and that some things have changed in the law, which has left a lot of school board open to liability because the board was not following the correct policy.

“This (program) would be a service because it’s constantly updated,” she said.

Little said he would like to have a timeline as to when the updates would be in place.

Ingram said it possibly could take 60 days, but she would need to seek further information on a timeline.

Board member Kelvin Edwards agreed it was a needed service.

“I think this is something we need to look forward to because the first thing people want to quote is policy and living in a society of litigation I think our people need to be protected,” he said.

Donald Johnson moved to approve option number two as recommended; it was seconded by Marjorie Edwards. The motion passed without objection.