UC School Board discusses changes in student dress code
“Dress code policy proposal” was listed on the agenda for Monday evening’s Union City School Board meeting but, contrary to what some at the meeting seemed to expect, no vote changing the existing policy was taken.
Instead, board members asked Director of Schools Gary Houston to review with them the changes being suggested by principals at the system’s three campuses — Union City Elementary, Middle and High schools — and then invited the principals to explain their thinking on the issues directly to the board.
Board members asked questions, made comments confirming their commitment to a reasonable policy that takes into account the positive aspects of the code already in place, “tweaks” the rules in areas where change seems called for and considers the opinions and needs of families as well as school administrators and teachers.
Having assured the group of 30 or so principals, teachers, students and parents who were present at the session that they wanted to explore the recommendations of the administrators in more depth and receive input from parents and students and would not be voting on the issue until May, several board members, nevertheless, said they felt strongly about the importance of a dress code that contributed to the safety and well-being of the students, helped students present an image of self-respect and confidence, preserved modesty and eliminated excessive time devoted to compliance issues. Board members suggested that if enforcement of the current code, or a modified one, continued to present problems, a standard school uniform might well be the solution to the situation in the future.
They noted that it was unfortunate that a few students who were unwilling to abide by the current policy might affect some decisions about future changes and said it had always been evident that the dress code put in place at the beginning of the 2007-08 school year would be subject to modification as students, teachers and administrators explored what worked and what did not.
The board will hear from the principals again, for further clarification of the administrators’ suggestions, at the May 6 orientation session at 6 p.m. at a location that will be announced. Orientation sessions are always open to the public, as are regular monthly business meetings of the board of education. The board expects to vote on the dress policy issue at the May 12 business session at 6 p.m. in the Municipal Building courtroom. Anyone who wishes to address the issue publicly at that voting session must contact the school board office at 885-3992 by noon May 8 and ask to have their name placed on the agenda.
Copies of the policy currently in force are available for viewing on the school system Web site, are printed in each school’s handbook and are available for pickup at the school board office in the municipal building.
Items the principals have asked the board to consider changing involve the following modifications to the existing policy:
• Shirts should be designed to be buttoned to the neck. Only the top button may remain unfastened. Turtleneck or mock turtleneck shirts cannot be worn alone but may be worn as undergarments. (This applies to students in all grades.)
• Belts must be worn with pants in grades 3-5 (at Union City Elementary school. Under the current policy, second-graders are expected to wear belts, but administrators feel this policy should be relaxed for that grade level.) Belts do not have to be a solid color.
• For students in grades 6-12, pants should be of khaki style (black, khaki, navy, olive, brown or gray). No jeans are allowed. Capris must be in the same selection of solid colors. No denim capris will be allowed. Belts must be worn on pants with belt loops in grades 6-12.
• Skirts or skorts must be in the solid colors — khaki, navy, brown, olive or black — and no denim is allowed.
• UC “Spirit Wear” sweatshirts (which are allowed on specified days) must be without hoods. These sweatshirts do not have to be tucked in but must be no longer than hip level. A solid-colored collared shirt or solid-colored turtleneck must be worn under the sweatshirt. Fleece is not considered sweater material.
• Coats, jackets, hooded clothing, shawls, ponchos and raincoats cannot be worn inside the school building.
• Compliance — administrators have added a third level of effort to correct the problem before the student is given out-of-school suspension on the fourth violation. Parents of children receiving out-of-school suspension must meet with the principal before the student will be given permission to re-enter.
“This is not a closed issue,” board chairman Janice Faulk said. “It’s an issue we want to keep discussing for the good of our children.”
Board member Curtis McLendon voiced appreciation for the principals who are charged with enforcing the dress code and noted his support for seriously considering their input and backing their efforts to stress compliance by saying, “You see our children every day. As young people say, ‘We’ve got your back.’”
“Perhaps we don’t say it enough,” board member Shea Riley told UCMS principal Dan Boykin and UCHS principal Barry Duncan, who were called on to explain their justification for the proposed changes, “but our hearts are with you and we appreciate everything you do.”
Mrs. Faulk echoed that praise: “Yours is not an easy job and there is always someone to push your back against the wall.”
The principals explained their requests by noting that jeans — more so than khaki pants, skirts, capris and skorts — presented a much wider array of opportunities for border-line compliance with the code that calls for constant monitoring and decision-making about whether the student is adhering to the policy (color, detailing on the fabric, the appearance of holes or tears), resulting in too much time devoted to making disciplinary decisions for administrators and teachers and too much time out of the classroom for students. Students in the elementary school do not normally present the same problems and their playground activities could be said to justify the wearing of denim jeans.
They noted that the issue of buttons on blouses for older female students was not adequately covered in the original policy and had resulted in students’ sometimes displaying more skin than is considered appropriate in a school setting.
It was noted, too, that students have bent the rules for wearing outergarments into the classroom and the concealing nature of these clothes presents safety issues and allows students to obscure the fact that they may be using entertainment and communication technology that is not permitted during school hours.
In other business before the board, members approved a consent agenda that included the minutes of the March 10 board session, Section 6 of the policy manual, bills to be paid, textbook adoption, budget amendments and the purchase of 18 laptops to upgrade the cart at UCHS ($19,296 from EarthWalk) and 24 laptop computers with a laptop computer cart ($28,750 from EarthWalk).
The board recognized members of the UCHS Golden Tornado undefeated and state champion boys basketball team and the award winning basketball cheerleaders, as well as the coaches and cheerleading sponsors. Board chairman Janice Faulk presented special plaques to the basketball team and cheerleading squad and praised their efforts and team work and willingness to keep trying.
“I saw one of the most valuable lessons anyone can learn played out as a result of your efforts,” she said, “and that is, never give up. Never count yourself out and commit to playing as a team.”
Tenure was approved for several teachers who have completed three years in the Union City School System. Board members had received requests for tenure and supporting documentation from administrators, supervisors, fellow teachers, parents and — in one case — a student to review at the March board meeting.
The following teachers will receive proof of their new status as tenured educators in the system at the May meeting:
• Trudi Collins, special education teacher at UCHS (had previously attained tenured status, had resigned and has returned and is requesting reinstatement in accordance with the new state procedure);
• Carrie Cooper, UCES kindergarten
• Kristy Dowden, UCES fourth grade
• Brittany Kendall, UCES first grade
• Laura Kingrey, UCHS business technology
• Melissa L. Lawrence, UCES kindergarten
• Megan Miller, UCMS sixth-grade reading
• Cindy Porras, UCES fourth grade
• Cindy Thralls, UCES pre-kindergarten
• Beth Vise, UCMS eighth-grade reading/language arts
In the director’s report, Houston praised UCHS math and physics teacher Lance Morgan for his selection as a state finalist for Teacher of the Year.
He noted TCAP tests are being taken this week at UCES and UCMS and Gateway tests in math, English and science will be completed May 6-8 at UCHS. End of course testing and several other exams are set for May 8-14 at UCHS.
Houston noted the annual UCHS Top Ten banquet will be 6:30 p.m. May 1 in the school commons area and alumnus Jason Woods (Class of 1993) will be the speaker.
Expressions of sympathy were noted for UCMS teacher Mary Lynn Cox on the death of her mother.
The UCES Block Party will be held May 2 from 5-8 p.m. and principal Michael Paul Miller will be fulfilling his pledge to spend the night on the school roof that evening since students have met their goal of reading 100,000-plus books this year. The block party will also include a lip-sync contest, a silent auction for student art, inflatable jumping stations, a dunking booth and face painting. The PTO will meet April 21 to finalize these plans.
At UCHS, Houston noted, Athena Knight and Treymar Johnson have been accepted in the 2008 Governor’s School for the Arts at Middle Tennessee State University in Murfreesboro this summer.
Camron Sherwood and Brandon Crume are the newly-named Boys’ State delegates and Luke Sanderson and Landon Nipp are alternates.
Chelsea Hale and Anna White have been selected to attend Girls’ State and Madelynn Moore and Heather Simpson are alternates.
Houston said the UCHS softball team returned to the campus from a successful spring-break tournament in Florida and the baseball team competed in a Memphis tournament recently.
Board members received written reports from each of the schools detailing activities at the various campuses.
Published in The Messenger 4.16.08
dress code, Union City School Board