By Karen Hall
School board members backed away from moving toward a standardized school attire policy after lively discussion at a policy committee meeting Tuesday. Most said they had heard from numerous parents, both for and against.
Donnie Moses said some parents had told him standardized school attire would "suppress individuality" while Harvey Jones Jr. said a lot of parents would love to see it.
"There are as many for as against," Jones said. "You might want to wait."
Kristen Gold agreed with him.
"Right now we have a lot going on in the schools," Gold said. "This is a big initiative. I'd rather just wait."
Some of board members' discussion focused on the way the current dress code is being enforced.
"I have some problems," said Gold. "There are items in our existing policy that are not being enforced. For example, 'Tattoos should be covered' - that's not happening."
Randy Perryman agreed with her, and said a parent had asked him how principals would enforce standardized school attire if they're not enforcing the dress code now.
"We've got administrators asking for it to be fixed, yet they're the ones not enforcing it," Donnie Moses said. "Interpretation has run wild. That's why we have the mess we're in now."
"Different teachers are enforcing (the dress code) differently," added Barbara Kennedy. "Our dress code has not ever been consistently enforced. I still support standardized school attire, but I like it only as much as we're willing or able to enforce it."
"That's the key," agreed Ann Tears. "Everybody's got to be on board if we go that route."
"It comes back to a principal running their building," concluded Mike Keny. "Telling his teachers what he expects."
"What if we go back to Mr. Morgan's suggestion?" Kennedy asked, referring to remarks made at an earlier policy meeting by Forrest principal Danny Morgan. "Let them wear what they want as long as there's no crack and no cleavage."
"That's the main thing," agreed Sam Smith. "Wear a belt; we don't want to see your underwear."
"Britches above the hips," added Curt Denton.
"It's got to be brutally simple," concluded Moses. "Teachers need to be accountable. Tattoos are not clothing. Let's take that out of our policy and leave it to state law."
In the end, committee members unanimously approved a motion to fine tune the existing dress code and tell administrators to enforce it. They agreed to meet with all school principals to discuss the dress code and how it could be simplified.
"Let's simplify the original and tell them to enforce it," summarized Denton. "If you're paid, it's your responsibility to enforce the dress code."
Tears had the last word. "If it (enforcing the dress code) doesn't work, standardized school attire may come back around," she said.