After a thorough discussion about the implementation of a standardized dress code, Palestine Independent School District trustees chose to move away from the idea to take a look at making changes to the current dress code policy.

While most of the board members agreed they had no qualms with a standardized dress code, the issues of costs and potentially dividing the district on the issue kept them from putting their stamp of approval on the topic.

“My concern is that we are treating the symptom not the real problem,” trustee Dr. Michael Gorby said. “We don’t have the unified support from the parents — they are split pretty evenly.

“If a lot of the intent is for a safe, effective school I don’t know if we can look to the uniforms as the single answer.”

Trustee Mark Calhoon agreed with Gorby, also questioning the viability of studies presented to the board on the issue.

“I don’t see proof of positive results in the studies I’ve read on school dress codes,” he said. “They may be positive in theory but there isn’t anything substantial in what I’ve read.

“I’m more for the uniforms than against them, but I’m shocked by the studies,” he added. “I don’t see the point of alienating a large percentage of parents and 98 percent of the students for something that may not even work.”

A survey conducted by the district showed that parents were divided on the issue 60 percent against and 40 percent for the policy, with a large majority of the students against standardized dress.

“I’ve received many phone calls and e-mails about this — some pros and some cons,” board president Dana Staples said. “I just think there is a better way to spend our time than on implementing a standardized dress code.”

Board member Michael Bennett agreed with Staples, stating that in his opinion the negatives of the issue far outweighed the positives.

“I think it would be a big negative because we are having trouble enforcing the dress code now,” he said. “With the results of the survey being that close, I think it will be even harder to enforce that it is now.

“We could be spending our time and money doing something more useful instead of having our teachers and administrators focus all of their energy on enforcing a standardized dress policy.”

Another issue discussed by trustees was cost of implementing such a policy. According to school officials, 64 percent of PISD students are on the free and reduced lunch program, which means those students might have trouble paying for the required clothing.

“There are so many parents that have a very hard time paying for clothes for their students now,” Staples said. “I do not think we need to create an even greater burden on them.”

The more immediate issue, trustees agreed, was the current dress code and its enforcement.

High school principal Richard Scoggin told the board that only about four percent of the campus’ students were considered repeat dress code offenders, with less than 10 percent of the student body violating the dress code at least once.

“We do need to look at the current dress code policy and see what we could do to help the teachers and principals,” trustee Mark Davis said. “Maybe we need to narrow it.”

Calhoon shared similar sentiments.

“I think we need to fine tune the problems with the current dress code instead of taking drastic measures,” he said. “If that doesn’t work, let’s re-examine it again later.”

Staples concluded the discussion by suggesting the creation of a faculty committee to see what needs to be done about the dress code.

In other business, the board:

• APPROVED the recommendation from construction manager-at risk Buford-Thomas Co. to go with BRI’s bid for the roofing modifications to Palestine High School. The maximum guaranteed price for the project is $229,042.

• HEARD information on awarding of $1,500 in Tech Prep Funds from the Tech Prep Consortium that will fund training for tech prep instructor certification.

• APPROVED a resolution supporting March 6-10 as Texas Public School Week.

• APPROVED a resolution the May 13 school board trustee election and approved election judges.

• APPROVED a contract for election services with Anderson County. The contract is for the lease of four state-required voting machines at a cost of $250 each.

• APPROVED extending the contracts of all district administrators and principals.

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