Chambers County School District approves student uniform policy

Published 4:26 pm Thursday, May 26, 2022

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At a called meeting of the Chambers County Board of Education, the board voted 4-2 Wednesday to pass a 2022-2023 student code of conduct that included a new student uniform policy.

Superintendent Casey Chambley explained how the code of conduct is amended each year.

“As we do each year, we go through an evaluation process of the code of conduct to where we have a committee, and we call on our principals and administrators throughout the district to send us administrators, teachers, parents and students,” he said. “And over the past two and a half months, we have had multiple meetings here at the board office to where parents and students and administrators and teachers have come to the board office and reviewed the code of conduct.”

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Chambley announced that the school district had made some addendums to the dress code to create the new uniform policy.

“Something that our principals have been asking for and basically begging for is a uniform deal and a uniform policy that makes our dress code more uniform,” he said.

Chambley said problems in certain schools in the district, such as bullying, are tied to clothing.

“One of our neighboring school districts, Lanett City, went to a uniform policy several years ago, and it has worked out very well for them,” he said. “I spoke to their superintendent many times about this. We had several people on the committee this year that used to work in Lanett City, and that was beneficial.”

Chambley said the Chambers County School District started working on the uniform policy last year.

“They researched it,” he said. “They took it, and they took school districts from across the country. And they brought it back, and they came up with a policy. But we didn’t feel like we could get it out to the public in time because we didn’t adopt the code of conduct until June. So we worked on it throughout this year. We talked more, refined it more and worked on it this year and think that we’ve got it down and have come to a conclusion … that a uniform policy is the way to go.”

Chambley said that last year and this year, the students that were on the code of conduct committee were in favor of a uniform policy. He said the issue of individual expression came up during discussions of the policy.

“We have made some issues and changes in here dealing with shoes and things of that nature to where they can be more individual,” he said. “And I think that what will probably happen is we will have to work on this and refine it as we go.”

Chambley said research shows that how students dress can affect their performance in school. Additionally, he said uniforms would give teachers and school administrators some relief from having to enforce dress codes.

“It’s very difficult sometimes for our administrators and teachers to try to determine what is appropriate, what’s not, how they should address those things, what we do with them when they’re not in dress code,” he said.

Board member Candace Lyons asked what would be done for parents who couldn’t afford their childrens’ uniforms. Chambley answered that the school district would work something out for them.

“There’ll be vouchers and things,” he said. “We’ll work those things out through the board. We’ll work those things out through faith-based organizations.”

Chambley also said nonprofit organizations might help.

Lyons asked if students would be sent home for violating the uniform policy.

“It’s a written warning, then detentions…” began Chambley.

“But it says at the bottom they have to change… the parents will be called…” Lyons said.

“Yes, they’re going to have to be called, they’re going to have to be called and get within the policy,” Chambley said. “They’re going to have to get within the dress code. And we’ll have to work through those issues. We know that there will be issues with that and things that we’ll have to work through.”

As the board was getting ready to vote on whether to approve the new code of conduct, Lyons she wasn’t ready to vote because she thought the discussion on the topic was inadequate. The main issue she was still concerned about was the uniform policy.

“Okay, but still, we have a motion and a second,” said board president Jeffrey Finch. “All in favor by the saying of aye?”

Three board members said aye. When Finch asked if anyone was opposed, Lyons raised her hand.

Board member Jennifer Hunt said she’d approve the new code of conduct, making the vote four to two.

“I think it’s a hard decision because I know it’s not going to be a popular decision for my children, but I have to take my personal feelings out of it and think about what’s best for the children,” Hunt said. “I do see bullying [is] a big issue sometimes with children and what they wear and things like that. And the things that students wear to school are very inappropriate sometimes.”

Hunt said that teachers would be able to focus on teaching if they didn’t have to enforce a non-uniform dress code.

Board member LaShae Herring said she felt like the board was doing “a lot” in a short amount of time.

“We’re making all these mergers, and I just feel like we’re doing a lot this year,” she said. “I just wonder if we should get the merger done first and let everybody get settled…”

Lyons said she thought the uniform policy was a little strict.

“It is strict,” Chambley said. “Most of what you read and hear when you talk to parents…. When you talk to parents that are in our local area that early on, they felt the same way. But as they moved through it, the parents ended up liking it better. It was easier for them to find items for their kids to wear. They did not have to go and shop all over the place to find different clothes and items. They found it to be cheaper, especially for a lot of the elementary and middle school kids that were really rough on clothes.”

Chambley argued that things like cell phones and dress code violations were distracting students from learning.

Also during the discussion of the new code of conduct, Chambley said the exception policy for

sixth, seventh and eighth-graders had been changed.

“We made some changes to the code of conduct last year when we stopped exempting anyone in the district for midterm exams in the middle of the year,” he said. “We believe kids need to take exams. If we allow kids to exempt every exam, midterms and finals, you could have kids that exempt through middle school and through high school, and they never take a final exam. And our kids need to take exams. They need to take comprehensive finals.”

Later in the meeting, Chambley said a new policy stated that “no student may be exempted from a second-semester exam if he or she has failed a class during the first semester.”