School Board Passes Dress, Cell Phone, Language Policies
The Natrona County School District board of trustees adopted a district-wide set of policies about attire, abusive language, and cell phones at its bimonthly meeting Monday.
"The intent of the policy is to clarify expectations regarding certain behaviors in school, whether that be dressing appropriately, using one's cell phone appropriately, using language appropriately," board Chairman Dave Applegate said after the meeting.
"I guess there was a perception that we had allowed those standards to erode a little bit and that we needed to establish a minimum set of expectations along those lines," Applegate said.
The board had established a "high school expectations committee" composed of teachers, administrators, parents and board members. The committee presented the draft policy at its May 13 meeting. After the board approved the draft, it asked for comments from staff, faculty, students and the public.
Comments on all the policies came in by the score, and ran the gamut from pro to con to "absolutely ridiculous."
The dress policy:
- "I believe that this new dresscode is absolutely ridiculous.... This is a high school, not an institution."
- "Over the last many years, our professional dress standards have plummeted and I am glad to see an official policy come forth."
- "I believe school uniforms stifle individualism and creativity. Dress codes just need to be enforced not new socialist ideals added."
- "This policy perpetuates gender stereotypes. It teaches young women that they should be ashamed of their bodies, that they must cover themselves to prevent distraction, and that they are responsible for how others act."
- "Not even close to what we need ---- 1) Teacher-men-sport coats and ties, females-dresses, or skirts--- female teaches [sic] should not be able to wear pants 2) Students-- no jeans, no boots, no shorts, no t-shirts, no hats, no gym shoes.... Use of make-up must be very limited."
The language policy:
- "At the high school level we teach literature that contains profanity.... If there is a strict no profanity rule, I will be forced to break it on a weekly basis to do my job responsibly and effectively, and my students will be asked to break it regularly just to do their homework."
- "Sarcasm, in of itself, never hurt anyone. It is simply a form of speech, when used in moderation, is not an issue."
The cell phone, mobile devices policy:
- "Cell phones are a tool. We should be allowed to use them as such. It is one of our responsibilities to help students learn to use cell phones appropriately."
- "I realize that cell phones have become an obsession with young people but throwing the teachers in the same pool as students, in my opinion, shows just how little respect we have as professionals."
- "I actually support the cell phone policy! Years too late, though."
Some teachers and students said the dress code would cause problems for those in shop and other classes in which certain clothing items such as ties would be hazardous, and where clothing would be constantly soiled.
Other teachers and staff criticized what they perceived as a top-down imposition of policies.
During the work session before the meeting, trustee Debbie McCullar said the comments, especially from school staff, should have been signed.
But many comments were made anonymously because some staff fear reprisals, said Doreen McGlade, president of the Natrona County Education Association. "Unfortunately, we have employees in this district who feel uncomfortable speaking out."
By the end of the process, the comments had modified the original policies.
For example, the proposed language policy said, "The use of profanity, vulgarity, put-downs, sarcasm, or name-calling is inappropriate at all times."
The revised policy deleted "at all times" because that would have included literature.
Applegate said the revised policy looks at overall behavior and professionalism.
"We're not going to do anything that would censor or change plays or literature that's been deemed appropriate in the past," he said. "This is more about language in the halls."