A pupil was being denied an education because of a shirt collar, her mother said.
Sandra Thompkins tried to register her daughter Atecia at Murphey Middle School but was turned away because the solid white shirt she wore didn't meet the standards for solid white shirts, she said. The V-neck, lace-trimmed shirt has been nice enough for Atecia to wear to church, but she was told it didn't meet the dress code because it lacked a collar.
It took a central office secretary calling Murphey Middle to explain that collars aren't required, Ms. Thompkins said, adding that she hopes to have her daughter in school Monday.
"I'm a little upset because I want to go to school to learn, not to be rejected for the way I dress," said Atecia, 12.
Pat Burau, the assistant superintendent for school improvement and program development, said it's not appropriate to prevent someone from registering because of clothing and principals are encouraged to work with pupils and parents to adhere to the policy.
"There should be some leniency if there is a legitimate reason," Mrs. Burau said.
School officials must remind staff members each year about what the policy includes, she said. Some schools required collars a few years ago, but that has never been part of the school system's policies.
Ms. Thompkins said her daughter also had problems at Tubman Middle School before trying to enroll at Murphey.
"What does clothing have to do with my daughter's learning?" Ms. Thompkins asked.
School board member Ken Echols said the uniform and dress code is nothing new and everyone should be well aware of it. Still, some consideration should be given during the first week of school.
"They should be ready for the first day, but sometimes common sense needs to set in," Mr. Echols said. "I think the first week is a period of adjustment."
Teaching a pupil how to dress appropriately is part of an education, he said. Pupils need to know how to dress so they will be prepared for the working world.
Problems arise when the policy isn't enforced consistently, Mr. Echols said.
Mrs. Burau said the start of school this year has gone much more smoothly than in the past. There have only been a handful of problems with parents or pupils complaining about the dress code and uniform policy. Usually, there are more.
Reach Greg Gelpi at (706) 828-3851 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Richmond County dress code and uniform policy
Dress and grooming
A student shall not dress, groom, wear or use emblems, insignias, badges, or other symbols where the effect thereof is to distract unreasonably the attention of other students or otherwise to cause disruption or interference with the operation of the school. The ... duly authorized school official shall determine whether any particular mode of dress, apparel, grooming, or use of emblems, insignias, badges, or other symbols result in such interference or disruption, as to violate this rule, and shall give notice of such interference or disruption, and its cause, to all students by announcement or posting at the school.
Students shall at all times adhere to the following:
A. Rules governing body cleanliness, modesty, and neatness of appearance and good grooming. Under all circumstances, the attire must conform to the county dress and grooming policy.
- Body Piercing: No earrings (male) or body piercing (male or female).
- Hair: Extreme hair color and/or styles that may cause a disruption to the learning environment or school program will not be allowed.
B. Clothes and shoes that show good taste, avoiding extreme designs and styles which may pose a safety problem, are expected. Head dress (hats, sweat bands and scarves which are meant to be worn outside) is not to be worn inside the school building.
- Coats and Jackets: Coats and jackets shall be the appropriate size for the wearer, shall not be overly baggy so as to distract or otherwise cause disruption or interference with the operation or safe conduct of the school. Coats and jackets should only be worn in weather appropriate for the garment and generally should be removed and not worn while the student is in the classroom or in the school building. When not being worn, the garment should be stored or hung in a manner and place reasonably determined at each school.
- Shirts or Blouses: Shirts or blouses, including all T-shirts, must be tucked into the waistband of the pants, shorts or skirt. Unacceptable attire includes clothing that exposes the torso such as see-through garments, halters, spaghetti straps, backless dresses, tube tops, tank tops or muscle shirts, bare midriff outfits, or shirts or blouses that are tied at, or may rise above, the waist.
- Skirts, Shorts, Skorts and Dresses: Skirts, shorts and skorts must be fitted at the waist and should be at the knee area in length. The school board deems miniskirts to be disruptive and they are not allowed. This includes skirts and dresses and includes any opening, such as a slit, that exposes the thigh above the knee area designation. Note: As a rule of thumb parents may use a dollar bill, held sideways, for a measurement of no more than 2 inches from the crease at the back of the knee.
- Pants and Shorts: All pants, including jeans, must be of traditional style without cutouts or holes and without excessive ornamentation. They must be fitted at the waist and must not be baggy or oversized and not sagging or frayed at the bottom. Pants must not drag the floor. Sweatpants and wind suits are not allowed. Unacceptable shorts include, but are not limited to, athletic shorts, spandex-style "bicycle" shorts, cut-off jeans, cut-off sweat pants, short-shorts, running shorts and boxer-type shorts or any see-through garment.
- Belts and Straps: Belts, if worn, must be secured at the waist and buckled. All straps must be fastened, and sashes must be tied. Excessively large belt buckles are prohibited.
- Shoes: Shoes should have a heel (back) or a heel strap. Shoelaces should be tied. No shower shoes, flip flops, thong shoes or house slippers are allowed. At all times student safety should be considered in shoe selection.
- Hats: No hats or head covers may be worn in the building.
- Bandannas: No bandannas of any type will be allowed.
C. Fraternity and sorority insignias ... are forbidden.
D. Sunshade and/or dark glasses will not be worn inside the school building unless prescribed by a physician or another person who is professionally qualified to make such recommendations.
E. Students shall not wear clothing (shirts, caps, etc.) that will in any way promote or advertise the use of narcotics, alcoholic beverages, tobacco or stimulant drugs which are illegal for any such student to use.
F. Suggestive, vulgar, or obscene pictures and/or language on clothing are forbidden.
G. Any symbol or article of clothing that is gang related as defined in Rule 22, is prohibited.
H. "Grills" or metallic caps on the teeth are prohibited.
Uniforms: Athletic, Jr. ROTC, and other school-approved uniforms must meet the guidelines of the dress code.
Special Schools: Magnet and Alternative schools may have additional guidelines as per their contract. Nothing in this code shall exclude provision for reasonable necessary dress and grooming regulations for special classrooms and extracurricular activities. This policy applies to all school activities. The principal of each school shall be responsible to carefully monitor this necessary modification.
UNIFORM POLICY (Grade K-8)In addition to the dress code, students in elementary and middle school are subject to the following uniform policy. ...
1. All pants, including jeans, must be of a traditional style without cutouts or holes and without ornamentation. Any denim worn ... must be solid khaki or solid blue or solid black. The garment must be fitted at the waist, worn at the waist and not be baggy, oversized (or) frayed at the bottom. Acceptable colors for pants, slacks, skirts, shorts, dresses and jumpers are solid blue, solid khaki and solid black.
2. Acceptable top or shirt colors are solids of red, white, blue, and one color of school choice. The school choice may include an appropriate school spirit shirt. Outerwear, including vests, sweaters and jackets must meet the requirements of the dress code but are not subject to the color restrictions of the Uniform Policy.
3. The school uniform policy must accommodate students whose religious beliefs are substantially burdened by a uniform requirement. For example, religious messages may not be singled out for suppression but rather are subject to the same rules as generally applied to comparable messages. For example, this would include required religious attire such as headscarves.
4. The uniform policy shall not prohibit students from wearing or displaying expressive items, so long as such items conform to the dress and grooming policy and do not independently contribute to disruption by substantially interfering with discipline or with the rights of others. ...
5. The policy should make reasonable and discrete provisions for parents who can not afford to purchase uniforms, by:
a. acquiring sponsors to provide assistance in uniform purchases;
b. requesting other parents to work together to make uniforms available for economically disadvantaged students;
c. by asking for donations of used uniforms from graduates to be available for incoming students; and,d. by any other reasonable action taken by the school.
6. Under all circumstances, uniform attire must conform to the county dress and grooming policy.There will be no "opt out" provision.
Source: Richmond County Board of Education