The topic came up for discussion at the tail-end of a committee meeting last week when concerns were expressed to the board about the “enforcement” of the code throughout the system. The policy was implemented at the beginning of this school year and has drawn some criticism from parents and students since its inception
“The feedback I have been getting is that the enforcement of the dress code is not consistent from student to student,” board member Telfair Simpson explained during the committee meeting.
Simpson said those he talked to want one of two things to happen, do away with it altogether or make it stricter. “I think teachers are tired of taking away from their time to tell a student to pull their pants up or to tighten their belt when the next day it’s the same thing; sometimes it’s the next class.”
Superintendent Dr. Ethan Lenker told the board the situation is a Catch-22.
“We have had that problem before,” he said. “And, my guess is that we will have that problem to some extent no matter what we do.”
Board chairwoman Doris Warren questioned the real problem with the dress code. “Are you saying that the problem is that we don’t have the penalty portion (of the code) that we need in place?” she asked Simpson.
“I think that is part of it,” he said. “From the feedback that I have been getting (from teachers) ... it is not being enforced strict enough.”
“Well, I thought that was the whole purpose of it; that we were going to enforce it,” Warren emphasized.
Board member Faye Gay concurred, saying as it stood, teachers were repeatedly sending students out of class for those kind of dress code violations. “When students are sent to ISS, it is the same thing over and over again Gay said. “... and the same reasons.”
“It is the inconsistencies, really,” interjected member Mary Brown. “To be honest, those inconsistencies are human. Some teachers are going to see something one class period that the next one will not see. And to a child, he or she is thinking that the teacher doesn’t care. It is not that she doesn’t care, it is just that she just didn’t see it.”
Listening to the discussion among members, Warren then asked Lenker and her colleauges what could be done.
“My question is, who is doing a good job with it?” Brown remarked.
Without missing a beat, Warren said, “Stuart Daughtery (Midway High principal) is.”
“I also think that Mr. Daughtery is doing a wonderful job,” said board member G.H. Wilson.
“I really think the middle schools are doing a great job,” added Lenker.
“That could be a lot with the students, they are staying more in line than the older kids in the high schools,” said Simpson. “The older kids are going to, you know, try to challenge the system.”
Agreeing with Lenker, board member Glenn Tart, added, “Those middle schools are doing an outstanding job, even from last year. They are doing great and hopefully, they will continue to do so when they get into high school.”
“A principal with over 400 kids, they have to do something ...” said Wilson.
“I agree with that,” said Simpson. “But if a teacher is sending a child to the office day in and day out, and they are continuing to get on that kid every day because that student is still not following the code, what is the incentive for that teacher to keep doing it? This is all hypothetical, but if that teacher is not getting the support, why would that teacher keep doing it?”
“That is why they need to speak to the principal or assistant principal and share those concerns,” said Wilson. “It’s like, ‘hey I am doing this; are you going to uphold the dress code or not?”’
Nodding, Simpson said that is why he brought the discussion up in the first place.
“That is what I am saying, there needs to be more consistency throughout the county,” said Simpson. “The human nature’part of it obviously comes in, but there needs to be more consistency across the board. The feedback I have been getting (throughout the county) is that we need to enforce it or do away with it.”
“I understand exactly what you are saying,” said board member Roosevelt Wright, “and I observed the same thing. There was a kid leaving the cafeteria, and he was headed to class. He stopped at the bathroom and fixed his dress because he knew before he went to that class, that teacher was going to confront him. I think it is a concerted effort by all the teachers to make sure this thing is applied. If it is not carried out by all of them, you lose respect from the students because you allow them to violate that.”
Wright suggested that Lenker have a discussion with all administrators about the issue.
“I think you can address that with the administration and get them to come down on those teachers (not doing it) and make them do what needs to be done. Those kids need it,” he said.
The teachers, Simpson said, need to be backed up. “Everyone needs to be on the same page.”
It was also suggested that the policy be updated to say that “clothes need to fit properly”.
“If you have a kid who is wearing jeans four sizes too big, it doesn’t matter about the belt, it is not going to keep those pants up,” said Simpson.
Brown then brought up yet another point, that some parents aren’t in favor of the policy at all.
“We have some parents who don’t want the policy,” she said. “I can imagine that some don’t want to be bothered with it. But let’s hope that at some point the parents will decide that this is important to the safety of our children and get behind it.”
“Whether you agree with it or not, if it is the rule, it is the rule,” said Simpson. “I am not saying anyone is doing a bad job, I am just saying we need to look at what works and what doesn’t.”
“We have addressed the situation,” said Warren. “And Dr. Lenker is going to make sure that it is addressed with the administrators. Isn’t that right?”
“Yes, ma’am,” Lenker answered.
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