Mon Aug 8, 2022

Columbus County Schools may end uniform policy; survey underway

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Alicio Cruz gets a last-minute uniform touch-up before starting kindergarten at Old Dock Elementary School. Staff photo by Diana Matthews
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The Columbus County Board of Education could vote to eliminate its student uniform policy and return to the previous dress code, which allowed students more choices of clothing styles and colors. School system administrators began surveying parents and guardians for their input on the decision last week.

The proposal came from high school students and has won the endorsement of many county schools staff members, Columbus County Schools Superintendent Deanne Meadows said Friday.

The school system posted a link to the survey on its website and its Facebook page Feb. 9, asking parents and guardians which of two options they prefer:

  • “To keep the current uniform policy in place (polos, specific colors, etc.)
  • “To eliminate the current uniform policy (students have a wider choice of school clothing).”

The survey also asks participants to tell what school or schools their children attend. The Google Form requires a sign-in and password to prevent people from answering multiple times and skewing results, according to an administrator on the CCS Facebook page. There will be a phone survey as well, the message said. 

Student advisors

Meadows said high school students across the county asked her in the fall “about making a change to the dress code to allow sweatpants to be a part of the allowed attire.” 

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Meadows said school board members asked her to find out what CCS principals thought about making the change. She said the board wanted any change to apply to grades PreK–12 and not just high school. 

“In our next principals’ meeting,” she said, “the principals suggested that I take this back to the Teacher Advisory since they are the ones who must deal with the dress code the most. When I spoke to the Teacher Advisory, they wanted to be able to discuss with the entire staff.” 

Most schools staff supported the idea of changing the requirement but wanted parents to have a say in the process, Meadows said. “They asked that we survey parents to see what they think.” 

Meadows said she plans to take the survey results to the board, which “must approve any change to the policy.”

When asked whether issues of comfort, cost or school morale were weighing into the discussion, the superintendent said that her focus was “to answer the question that students had” and “trying to keep consistency among grade levels that the board requested.”

Past changes

The county board of education has revised student dress policy three times in the past two years. In April 2020, the board voted to allow all grades to wear school spirit shirts any day during the 2020–2021 year. Before that, students could only wear the printed shirts on special occasions or by permission. Spirit shirts had to conform to approved designs for each particular school. 

All grades were also given the option of wearing sweatshirts, hoodies or jackets of any solid color without logos.  

High school students were allowed to wear blue jean pants, capris or shorts “without embellishments or holes” as an alternative to khaki, navy blue or black pants. Blue denim skirts, jumpers, dresses and skorts also became allowable. 

Meadows proposed the distinction between high school and lower grades as a motivational incentive.

Three months later, however, Meadows recommended expanding the blue jeans and denim options to all grades, and the board approved the plan as a response to the COVID-19 crisis. Board member Ronnie Strickland, who is now chair, said the option would relieve some of the financial hardship on families struggling with pandemic-related job losses. At that time, Strickland pointed out, the board didn’t know whether students would even be attending classes in person during the 2020–2021 year. 

Policy 4316 of the board’s policy manual describes the student dress code. The document is available on the CCS website and shows that it was first adopted in 2010.

The board made a minor revision four months ago by removing the word “sweatbands” from a list of prohibited headgear. Some school staff had interpreted “sweatbands” to include headbands some girls wear to hold long hair out of their faces, Meadows said, and she didn’t think sweatbands were a problem in the schools.

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