Dress code policy tweaked

Published 8:51 am Tuesday, August 21, 2012

JACKSON – After heated discussions in a lengthy weekend meeting, the Northampton County Board of Education has decided to loosen its dress code policy for students.

On Saturday, the board met for a special called meeting to address questions and concerns of parents regarding an Aug. 13 decision in which the board took action “to suspend the uniform policy 2012-13 school year and update the dress code policy to promote the appropriate dress for students to meet 21st century challenges and expectations.”

Board member Clinton Williams said following the Aug. 13decision he heard concerns in the community about parents that had already purchased school clothing for their children and regarding the timing of the decision.

“Could the timing have been better? I think it could have been better, but the bottom line is we came together to address this policy anyway because we believe it was going to be a positive thing for our students and families,” he said about the first decision.

Board Vice Chairperson Erica Smith-Ingram, noting her experience in the education field, spoke about why the policy needed to change.

“Our current implementation of our school dress code policy has been implemented and applied to in a way that has been detrimental to (students) education,” she said. “When I look at the way that this policy has had a negative effect on our students in terms of their academic decline because they’re getting suspended it has just been atrocious for us not to take action when we did. The only problem I have is that we didn’t do it sooner. ”

Ingram said revising the policy allowed students to understand how to dress.

“There is a way to dress business casual and there’s a way to dress on your professional days, and so we need to teach our children that so that they can compete in 21st century challenges and expectations,” she said.

At Saturday’s meeting the majority of the board agreed upon the following changes to the Student Dress Policy:

Pants, gauchos, capris and skirts must be of black, navy or khaki color. Expectations relating to baggy or excessively tight fitting pants/bottoms are still in effect.

Under the section “Tops” teal and gray were added to white, navy and gold as colors allowed to be worn by students. T-shirts are now allowed. However, “no pictures, logos or lettering of any kind may be visible, except school logos.”

More colors were added under the section “Shoes”. “Shoes must be predominately one of the following colors: black, navy blue, white or tan.

Jeans were removed from a list of prohibited clothing.

The color restrictions of socks/tights were removed from the list.

Disciplinary actions for non-compliance of the Dress Policy were also revised by the board.

The action for first offense remained the same with the covering of item(s) and parent notification.

Second offense-Covering of item(s) and parent meeting or telephone call regarding policy compliance. This offense was changed from three to five days suspension.

Third offense-Maximum of one day of in-school suspension at the middle schools and high school. This offense was changed from five to 10 days of suspension.

Some board members did voice opposition to the changes due to the timing of the revisions. Phil Matthews, Marjorie Edwards and Board Chair Kelvin Edwards all agreed that while changes were needed the timing was not convenient for parents who may have already purchased school clothing. They also noted the need for community and parent input.

“There’s some great discussion going on when we look at this student dress code policy,” said Kelvin Edwards. “However, I still have to say the timeliness to implement of all these things and the enforcement of all these things by a certain degree there has to be a change. …I think for clarity there’s more to it than going around this room on a Saturday saying what should be and what should not be.”

After hours of discussion the board voted 6-1 to make the changes to the policy with Kelvin Edwards voicing opposition. Marjorie Edwards said she was abstaining from voting.