Group votes to ease dress code

Untucked shirts should be allowed, and pupils who misbehave should be sent to Saturday school.

In its first meeting, a newly formed committee of Richmond County school board members took on the problem of discipline in schools, listening to suggestions from principals.

What comes up most often is tardiness and shirttails, Westside High School Principal Tim Spivey told the committee, asking that the dress code be eased and a Saturday school program be considered as an alternative to suspending students.

"We've become the shirttail police," he said.

Pat Burau, the assistant superintendent for school improvement and program development, acknowledged Richmond County's dress code is stricter than most.

"We're one of the few counties that go as far as we go," she said, adding that an "overwhelming" number of high school principals support untucked shirts.

A more lax dress code drew the support of the committee, too. The committee will recommend the board adopt a less stringent dress code that allows untucked shirts.

Principals also called for a way to discipline pupils without kicking them out of school.

Saturday school already is held for academics, Mr. Spivey said, and something similar should be held for pupils with discipline problems.

Rickey Lumpkin, who was the principal of Tubman Middle School until this year, said his school adopted a character education program on Saturdays. That helped Tubman reduce discipline incidents by 40 percent.

"Things like Saturday alternatives to discipline to me are very, very critical," he said.

Cross Creek High School Principal Lynn Warr said that in the spring she began giving students the option of attending Saturday school, which prepared students for their graduation tests, rather than sending them home.

One student preferred it so much that he started getting into trouble to go, she said.

Reach Greg Gelpi at (706) 828-3851 or greg.gelpi@augustachronicle.com.

WHAT'S NEXT

When the board meets Aug. 9, the committee will recommend allowing students to wear their shirts untucked.