Dress code issue brings parents out to SBDMC meeting at Clinton Middle

Posted February 2, 2012 at 2:13 pm

The Clinton County Middle School Site Based Decision Making Council held a special call meeting Thursday night, January 26.

The meeting was called to address the dress code policy that is in place at the middle school.

More than 20 parents were on hand Thursday night to hear the council and to voice their opinion on the matter.


As it is now, the middle school’s policy on having holes in pants/jeans is a zero tolerance policy. The uproar about this policy has come within the past two weeks as anywhere from 20-30 cases of students with holes in their jeans have been reported to Principal Pam Bale. Bale stated in the previous weeks that several students have been purposely cutting holes in their jeans in order to get out of doing classroom work.

At five p.m. Thursday, the meeting was called to order with all members present. Principal and SBDMC Chair Bale started by reading the board’s policy on civility.

Following the reading of the board’s policy, Bale read the wardrobe policy that is sent home with every student at the beginning of the year.

“Students are to avoid extremes and are to dress appropriately for the occasion. Students should feel a responsibility to present an appearance that will reflect favorably on themselves, their home and their school. Students, faculty and school employees are expected to wear appropriate dress not only at school, but also at all school sponsored activities. Students should adhere to the following guidelines; No holes in jeans or pants are permitted: No pajama or sleep pants are permitted; All shirts and or blouses must have sleeves that extend beyond the shoulder and have sides from the underarm to the waist line; Shorts, skirts and dresses must measure to the fingertips in a normal stance with arms at the side; No tank tops, spaghetti straps unless layered with a no-see through garment: No hats, caps or sunglasses except for health, safety or religious purposes or for special activities with approval; No apparel that is obscene, suggestive, disrespectful or contains advertisements for liquor, tobacco or other controlled substances; No clothing that symbolizes, encourages or promotes hate, violence or bigotry; No spandex garments unless covered by looser fitting outer garments; No pants that sag or bag and no exposure of under garments at anytime by either sex. Acceptable footwear is required; No house slippers or house shoes. It goes on to say that students who violate these rules will be required to change their attire. Any class time lost will be considered unexcused and will be made up in detention. Items not addressed will be left to the schools discretion,” Bale said. “As we are here tonight, on the agenda we only have issues that are concerning our dress code. Obviously there are concerns with the dress code.”


Before Bale opened the meeting up and asked for the public’s input, council members stated their opinion on and commented on the dress code.

Council member Tim Duvall said there have been several policies in the past and most all of them hve come with opposition.

“We’ve had tips of the fingers and below the knees and it always seems to be an issue of where the knee is at,” Duvall said. “Last year, I thought if there was an issue of where the knees were at then let’s have no holes at all … We have to have some sort of dress code that everybody will normally follow, but you have to have rules for the ones who won’t follow it. That’s why we have a policy.”

Following Duvall’s statement, councilmember/teacher Lonnie Brown said the school has had policies where holes in the knees were acceptable.

“The holes in the knees went from the knee to the center of the thigh, then it went from the thigh to the center of the pocket and then to the back pockets,” Brown said. “That becomes an issue. Not only for educational reasons, because number one, students are distracted by what other students are wearing. Number two, it’s also a safety issue when you start looking at children in the upper grades, especially with the girls and the boys and the way their hormones rage and the way they behave around each other. I was not on the council when they adopted this policy, but I will tell you now I do support this policy because it eliminates the idea of the hole period!”

Following Brown’s statement to the parents and public, councilmember Jerry Stearns, who has been a part of the SBDMC since 2004 minus one year, spoke about his opinion about the policy. Stearns disagrees with the policy and thinks it should be amended.

“I disagree with this policy and I was on the committee when this policy was adopted and I disagreed with it then and I disagree with it now,” Stearns said. “I do understand the problem with the holes in the knees and how they got bigger and spread out over the years and they got in other places, but instead of making the policy where we could manage it before, if you couldn’t manage if before with a small group that was breaking the policy then, now we’ve opened the policy up to 600 kids. I think we’ve really over exaggerated the situation here and I don’t think there was anything wrong with the policy we had, with the holes in the knees and below the knees … The problem we have now is enforcing the policy and I think the policy is too extreme.”

After Stearns spoke, the public got involved and started firing questions at the board members. Some were asking how this policy could be fair while others were putting blame on the teachers for wearing tight fitting shirts.

One parent stood up and told a story about how his child had gone to a teacher and explained to the teacher about accidently ripping a hole in his jeans. That child was sent to detention for having a hole in his jeans.

“My son, who I think is amazing, got detention for that. Instead of the teacher saying ‘that’s good, I’m glad you did that .. let’s find a way to work around that,’ he was immediately sent to detention,” the concerned parent said. “Every teacher has gone to this school and has a higher education. When you start looking at Ivy League schools this stuff shows up. It doesn’t matter what you went for, you got in trouble. That to me, is out of control.”

After several parents spoke and voiced their opinion, Bale addressed the parents and said she didn’t disagree with anything they were saying, however, she said she had to enforce the policy that was in place.

“I’m not here to punish anyone. The SBDMC passed the policy of no holes. That’s what I take care of each morning … In the world that I wish we could have, I wish it said that students are to avoid extremes and dress appropriately for the occasion. To me that’s enough, but you have to understand that many of you say you check your child, there are that many more who do not and there lies the problem because when I interviewed for this position, a question that was asked to me about discipline and about consistency, I said I’m all about consistency. It’s not about who you are, it’s about consistency and that’s what I try to be.”

Bale said she tried to be consistent at the beginning of the year up until one child’s parents couldn’t bring the student a pair of pant, there for putting the child in detention for the remainder of the school day.

“There goes my consistency,” Bale said. “I had a parent call and say ‘Look, this isn’t fair. I have to work. I couldn’t bring my child a pair of pants and therefor had to spend the time in time out and the other child got to change.’ I just want kids to learn. We have two different schools here. We have fifth and sixth grade and we have seventh and eighth grade. We have eighth graders, who if we didn’t have a policy, would come to school and the whole full front end of their pants would be out and their long underwear would be showing.”

Kenny Stinson then mentioned the idea of having individual punishment for those who clearly opposed a dress code.

“But you can’t punish every student for it,” Stinson said.

“I’m not,” Bale replied, “I want them to follow the rules.”

Angela Sloan was also on hand for Thursday’s meeting and voiced her opinion on the matter.

“As I listen to the parents and listen to Mrs. Bale and the members, that I think sometimes we get off track. I’m sure each and every person can tell an individual story and that’s the case with anyone at any point in time, but looking at it as a whole, and I understand this, when you have a rule, Mrs. Bale’s job is, when she is hired, to enforce the rules as they are. Now, if as parents, many of you who are not satisfied with that rule, then perhaps what you could be doing is directing site based in a way that would be a better way to write that rule,” Sloan said. “I’m finding that part of what I’m hearing is don’t punish a kid because they are a good kid … Well, good kid or bad kid, if there is such a thing, a rule is a rule is a rule and it should apply across the board and if it says “no holes” and that’s apparently what it says, that’s what she (Bale) has to go by, that’s what teachers have to go by and that’s what I want them to go by. I want my child, when he comes here, to know that’s the rule and if you break that rule you are going to get in trouble and if this one over here breaks the rule then they are going to get in trouble. That’s the way it should be.”

One concern many of the parents had was the economic aspect of the policy.

Several parents said they couldn’t afford to buy pants for their child every time a small hole is torn in the leg of their pants.

“Whatever policy is in place, I think they tried to be consistent. We’ve tried to be consistent on whatever the policy is,” Josh Moons, teacher/board member said. “I would be glad to hear the policy for next year or to change it.”

After several more parents voiced opinions and asked questions, it was clear the same concern was on the minds of the parents who attended the meeting.

“I appreciate Mrs. Bale and what she does because we have more discipline in the school, however, I disagree with this because I think it should be an individual case for each student,” Stinson said. “These kids, they have to have some way to express themselves. There are three different schools here and they all have different dress codes. I see all these different dress codes and they all say different things. I think it’s an individual thing.”

Jennifer Harlan made the point that some of the kids who are cutting holes in their pants on purpose are getting a reward by not having to go to class.

“That’s their reward,” Harlan said. “My problem is I think the policies should be a little bit closer to the same.”

Other than the economic aspect brought up at the meeting, the physiological aspect was brought up as Greg Claborn made his statement.

“My kid doesn’t need any more distraction than he already has,” Claborn said. “He’s not gotten in trouble for holes in the pants, but he worries about it. It’s a big topic and it’s all they’re talking about and it needs to go away. I come to the meetings and I set in the gym and listen to how important it is for our kids to come to school and be in the classroom. If the punishment is to pull them out of the classroom and put them into detention, that’s going against what we all have agreed is important. To me, the parents need to be responsible as well. I do think a more reasonable policy is the policy we had last year and that would be below the fingertips. The main thing is even the student who have not gone to detention are being affected by this.”

Claborn went on to say he believes when the policy was written there wasn’t any ill intent, but, he said policies can be rewritten everyday.

“I do believe we need a policy and I do believe it needs to be enforced, but I do believe we can agree that it needs to be a more reasonable policy.”

Bale said several times during the meeting that she is there to facilitate in providing an education for the kids of Clinton County. As the meeting continued, it was clear a new policy would probably be drafted.

“My purpose is to provide an education for the students. The policies and procedure that are in place, it is my job, whether I agree with them or not, to follow them,” Bale said. “This policy on the student appearance, some of it was already in place and some of it has been amended such as the no holes. I’m not telling you that’s the answer and the best way to handle it.”

Bale said the teachers voted for the “no holes” policy to keep from spending a lot time talking about and looking at dress code issues instead of teaching.

“That was the purpose of this policy,” Bale said. “It was not to punish anybody, but at the same time, when you have students who do this purposely then you have an office full of students who are not getting an education.”

Bale said once the students were sent to time out, they were given their assignments to complete while in detention.

“The day the phone call came that I think caused a lot of the eruption, we had students purposely taking scissors and cutting holes in their pants so they didn’t have to give a speech,” Bale said. “Those students who didn’t have their speech were assigned Saturday School. If you don’t complete your assignment, then you go to Saturday School to complete it. Once that was assigned, I had an office full of parents that looked me in the eye and said ‘I’m not sending my child to Saturday School.’ So, there went the instructional purpose of the speech.

I signed up for this. I’m not complaining and I knew this is what we were coming into, but I need to hear from you (parents) now, what is an appropriate policy?” Bale asked. “As we go through the process of revising this policy, please come to the meetings. I would love to have the parent involvement in all of the things that we do, such as math night and reading night. That would be wonderful. Don’t wait until it’s a situation like this. I’m up front about everything. If you ever have a question, call me. I’m willing to talk with you and I’m willing to work with you.”

After about an hour and a half of hearing both sides, an unexpected event happened that put a stop to the meeting. A woman who attended the meeting, presented with drawing of the face and left hand. As soon as the situation was recognized, an ambulance was called to the meeting to provide medical attention.

It is not clear what brought on the medical condition of the woman and her condition after the conclusion of the meeting was unclear.

Once paramedics took the woman into the hall, several comments were made to conclude the meeting.

The one hour and 48 minute meeting saw the council agree to rewrite the policy. The policy has to go through two readings and then a vote to adopt the policy is made during a meeting.

“I want this to be a good policy,” Bale said. “At our next regular meeting, which is the third Monday of the month, it will be addressed and we will start the process of writing the policy. We want parent involvement.”

The policy will take a couple of meetings before it is ready to be enacted. Until that time, Bale said the current policy in place will be what administrators have to go by if any more situations come about.

“This is not something we do in a month and its over with,” Bale said. “Also understand the policy as it stands. Please try to adhere to that policy until that policy changes. It may be April it might be May … I don’t know. I have heard your comments, I have heard your concerns … I will use my common sense.”

At 6:48 p.m., Moons made a motion to adjourn and the motion was seconded by Brown.

The next regular meeting for the Clinton County Middle School SBDMC will be held on Monday, February 20. The meeting is open to the public.