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Mecklenburg school policy clarifies inappropriate school garb, cell phone use

SoVaNow.com / May 17, 2017
The Mecklenburg County School Board focused on policy changes for the coming school year — chief among them modifications to the code of conduct and dress code — as trustees held their regular monthly meeting Monday night in Boydton.

The dress code came under fire last year by parents in the South Hill area who complained that students were being held to an overly strict interpretation of a policy that prohibits girls from wearing dresses shorter than four inches above the knee, or with slits up the side. The dress code also prevents boys from wearing mesh shirts or shirts with large arm holes, or pants that expose their undergarments.

In response to the concerns, director of secondary curriculum Joan Hite said she and a team of teachers and administrators made several adjustments to the policies for the 2017-18 school year. The main changes are:

Stretch leggings, jeggings, tights may be worn with a shirt, blouse, or dress if the shirt, blouse, top, or T-shirt, is no shorter than fingertip length all the way around the student’s body.

Dresses must be no shorter than four inches above the knee all the way around the student’s body.

Pajama pants may not be worn.

Jeans must be free of rips, tears, or holes that expose skin above the fingertips. If jeans have the rips, tears, or holes, the skin must be covered.

Any clothing that overexposes the body — including razor back shirts, thin-strapped tank tops, off the shoulder tops/blouses/T-shirts, and thin strapped blouses — are not allowed.

Hite asked the trustees to review the changes and provide their input ahead of their June 19 meeting, when she hopes they will approve the revised dress code.

Superintendent of Schools Paul Nichols said he asked Hite to announce the policy now, before parents spend their school clothing budget on garb that may not be appropriate for school under the policy.

South Hill trustee Gavin Honeycutt wondered if the time is right to require all students to wear uniforms. He was told by Hite that a school uniform requirement was not discussed by her group, and Nichols said he felt it would raise “a lot of conversation in the community.”

“The state is taking a new look at discipline codes as it measures each school division’s performance and accountability,” he said.

Nichols added that his goal is for Mecklenburg’s discipline code to be a learning tool, part of the process of making students prepared for successful careers in 21st century work world. He said it should help both students and parents understand that there are ramifications for tardiness, not working well with others, misusing of social media, and dressing appropriately.

Hite said changes also are being made to the cell phone policy. The new policy reads:

“If a student wishes to possess a cellular telephone while on school property, the cell phone should not be in use at any time. The student may not turn on or use the cellular telephone during the official instructional day unless instructed by the teacher to use it according to the BYOD policy. Students’ phones should not be in use when entering or exiting their car or bus in the morning or afternoons.

“These safety procedures are in the best interest of each driver and student. Cell phone usages can pose great safety hazards, bullying, and other deviant behaviors. Videotaping events using cell phones is prohibited. This policy is in place to begin building necessary skills for the workforce. Businesses have expectations regarding cell phone use and non-use that our students need to understand for successful transitions into the workforce.”

Wanda Bailey asked about reinforcing the message that any cell phones used on campus must be routed through the school division’s filtered network, otherwise their use is in violation of school policy.

Also, students will no longer be allowed to carry gym bags and string bags with them during the course of the school day. They will be allowed out, solely for the purposes of transporting gym clothes to and from their locker rooms.

Trustee Rob Campbell asked if there was a need to include in the policies a distinction between aggressors in a fight and those who are merely defending themselves. He said parents have indicated their child, who acted out of self-defense often received the same punishment as the child who started the fight.

Hite said the type of punishment doled out was left to the discretion of the school administration after they investigate the matter.

In other business, Tracey Rogers, director of primary curriculum, and Hite updated trustees the four different federal program allocations they’ve applied for. These monies will be used for tutors, professional development, programs for those who speak English as a second language and other reading and math programs.

Director of food services Robin Moore announced that the cost of school lunches for the 2017/18 school year is going up ten cents, by order of the Department of Education. Regular student lunches will now cost $2, reduced lunches will cost 50 cents and adult lunches $3.15.

Nichols reminded that board that he was seeking two trustees to serve on his committee planning for the county’s new secondary schools. Glenn Edwards added that the engineering firm hired by the county has begun its survey of properties suitable for a new consolidated middle/high school complex.

Beverly Baugh said she has put together a group to design a youth leadership program for those students involved in sports and other extracurricular activities. The focus will be on expectations of those in leadership roles. Baugh was invited to design a program following the incident earlier this year where members of the Park View High School basketball team instigated a fight in Brunswick County during a tournament. The fight led trustees to cancel the rest of the 2017 basketball season at Park View.

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"Wanda Bailey asked about reinforcing the message that any cell phones used on campus must be routed through the school division’s filtered network, otherwise their use is in violation of school policy."

While good in theory, there is absolutely no way to police the students as to whether they are using their personal cellular data or the school division's wifi.


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