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Student dress code revised, stricter punishments set
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Rule 11 - Dress and Grooming (part of the proposed changes)
Recommended Dispositions:

First offense: Warning and parent conference
Second offense: Two day in-school suspension, parent conference, and behavior contract
Third offense: Two day out-of-school suspension, parent conference, review behavior contract
Fourth offense: Three day out-of-school suspension, parent conference, consider alternative placement
Fifth offense: Suspension up to 10 days and a disciplinary hearing

Rockdale County Public Schools is cracking down on dress code violations by implementing more specific consequences as part of its overall study of dress code and uniform options.

Dr. Garrett Brundage of the Office of Support Services presented proposed changes to the code of conduct at the Thursday night Board of Education meeting.

The changes included a schedule of punishments that range from a warning and parent conference for the first violation of the dress code, to days of in-school and out-of-school suspension, all the way to a suspension up to 10 days and a disciplinary hearing for the fifth offense.

Superintendent Dr. Samuel King said the changes were from the year-long study and survey effort by RCPS, which included a web survey, survey in the Parent Handbook, conversations at the Superintendent’s Community Forum, research by a uniform committee and conversations with school administrators.

“I feel these revisions will give the school-level administration the leverage they need to better enforce this code,” said King. “I t also positions the administration to hold students accountable as necessary.” King said RCPS would monitor the effects of the changes to see if it address the problem of dress code violations, which were mostly at the high school level.

Some of the clothing specified as not allowed in the revised code include head coverings, wallet chains, halter tops, and spaghetti straps. Leggings and “jeggings” may be appropriate if worn with a skirt or shirt that reaches to the knee. The requirement that shirts be tucked would be eliminated.

Board member Darlene Hotchkiss asked whether head coverings for religious purposes would be allowed. Brundage said it could be reviewed on a case by case basis.

Hotchkiss pointed out the revisions were being made to provide clarity. “There has to be something stated there,” she said. “If it’s a matter of interpretation. I don’t want interpretation from our students. I don’t want interpretation from our faculty…. I don’t want to be sitting there going ‘how do we interpret that dress?’” She added. “The whole point of revising the code of conduct is to make it clearer… If we’re going to spend the ink, let’s enforce it.”

RCPS attorney Jack Lance said from a legal standpoint, the code was not deficient because families that wanted an accommodation for religious reasons could still request it.

Board member Katrina Young said such families were probably used to having to make such requests.

Brundage said adjustments to the proposed changes would be sent out to board members again. Since the changes were to code and not to policy, the board will not have to vote on it.

The survey inserted in the Parent Handbook saw about 8,700 responses returned, out of almost 16,000 students, according to figures presented by Community Relations Director Cindy Ball in February. Of those, about 60 percent of the responses were in favor of uniforms and about 21 percent in favor of some sort of standard dress. About 81 percent were in favor of some kind of clothing requirement change while about 15 percent were opposed to clothing requirement change but possibly in favor of some sort of dress code change.