Parents upset over HCPS policy

Published 10:59 am Wednesday, September 26, 2012

WINTON – For the second straight meeting the Hertford County Board of Education received public input about its uniform policy.

Six parents spoke during the meeting to discuss their belief that the policy should be changed or abolished.

School Board Chairman David L. Shields began the public input period by reminding those in attendance of the policy for public input. The board’s policy includes allowing three minutes per speaker and a total of 15 minutes for public input.

He then called on Darryl Ireland, a parent who protested the uniform policy last week in a peaceful demonstration near the Hertford County High School property.

Ireland said he did not like the examination the uniform policy caused students.

“I don’t believe our children should ever be subjected to the scrutiny that this uniform policy imposes on them,” he said. “Our individualities and freedoms of expression are a few of the many things that have made this country what it is today.”

Ireland said he understood the need for a dress code, but did not like it limiting hair color, hair style, jewelry, makeup and tattoos.

“When we restrict our freedoms in order to protect them, we’ve already lost,” he closed.

Carolyn Mitchell expressed dual concerns. One was that the school bus had not picked up her child at her home since the beginning of school.

“I also don’t understand why there is a dress code because kids should be able to wear what they want to school,” Mitchell said.

Shawanda Harmon said she didn’t have as much a problem with the uniform code as she did with the enforcement of it.

“I don’t have a problem too much (with the policy), but y’all are taking it too far as far the logos,” she said. “If you have to come up to a child and say you have American Eagle or Polo or Aeropostale, you can’t wear that shirt no more; you have to white it out or color it in.

“As long as you have the colors on, it shouldn’t be too much of an issue,” she said.

Harmon said the same thing was true for shoes. She said the students were being pulled from class because of the trivial uniform policy violations.

“I have a problem with that because you take away from the education level as far as my child,” she said.

Harmon said she was upset about being called from work because of what she termed “minor” violations of the uniform code.

Sandra Nichols then spoke and said the teacher picked up the bottom of the shoe of a kindergarten student and sent them to the office because of a logo that couldn’t be seen.

“Then I had a principal – I’m not saying any principal’s name – not the high school, I’ve talked to Mr. Futrell and it is not him, made the comment that it’s the parent’s fault because they sent the child to school like that” Nichols said. “She told me standing right there in that hall it was our fault because we sent the child to school with these symbols on.”

Nichols said she had one child to graduate last year and another in the eleventh grade and that they had worn the same clothes and it had not been a problem in the past.

Alexander Wright spoke and suggested the board turn over the dress code to parents and students.

“I know you have a lot on your agenda – budgets, school safety; so I came up with the idea what about y’all just turn the school policy for dress code over to parents and kids,” Wright said. “The parents are going out and buying the uniforms and the kids have to wear them so why not let the parents who are buying them and the kids who are wearing them decide what to wear to school.”

He said there were people signing petitions to either abolish the uniform policy or change it.

The final speaker of the evening was Beth Holt, who said she thought the economy should be considered with the uniform policy.

“We all live here and I’m sure you all feel the problems of the economy that it’s not real good right now,” she said. “When we’re having to spend money on buying uniforms, spending money on everyday clothing outside of school and then spend money on church clothes as well. It gets expensive.

“I don’t consider myself as less fortunate as somebody else,” she continued. “I feel like my situation is pretty good compared to somebody else’s.”

Holt also said the policy was “nit-picked” and had gotten “outrageous.”

Shields thanked all those who came to the board with their concerns.

“This is your school board,” he said. “You have a right to say what you want to say within reason. I personally appreciate the way everyone conducted themselves. It says a lot about the Democratic policy we have in this country.”

Shields also invited the audience to stay and hear the report on uniforms that was later in the agenda.