Revisions to its highly controversial dress code policy are expected to be posted on Palmerton Area School District's web site today.
The school board, on an 8-0 vote on Tuesday, accepted the first reading of Policy No. 221, Pupils - Dress and Grooming. Director Darlene Yeakel was absent.
As part of their discussion, the board agreed that language needs to eventually be included in the policy to state that "the showing of cleavage is inappropriate."
That came at the behest of Director Carol Dwyer, who suggested that the board needed to address the matter after she found no reference to it in the dress code revisions.
"I think the word cleavage needs to be added," Dwyer said. "That needs to be in there so that we're clear."
Board President Barry Scherer said the eventual addition should nullify that particular matter.
"No cleavage is no cleavage," Scherer said. "Period."
A resident then asked which policy students are supposed to follow.
"By the time it hits the website, under guidelines, item number three will tell you what the board changed," Scherer said. "Follow the revised dress code."
Earlier, under the public participation portion on agenda items, the board once again fielded questions from students and parents on the policy.
Senior Kalyn Lehr said she and many of her fellow students still remain uncertain of the dress code.
"I don't know what is going on," Lehr said. "Nobody knows."
Superintendent Carol Boyce told Lehr the dress code will be posted with the revisions on the district's web site.
Lehr suggested that administration have someone deliver the message to the students in person.
"I think you should have someone present the dress code to the students personally so that way they know what's going on," Lehr said. "I think it would be easier for the students, parents and teachers."
Scherer said "we're hoping that with the first reading, there will be a clear understanding."
Parents Scott and Susan Hillegass said they're fed up with the situation after their daughters were told they were in violation of the policy.
"There is no continuity of what is and what's not acceptable," Susan Hillegass said. "I think they're just getting a little ridiculous with the dress code."
Scherer reiterated his prior statement that "the board is really hoping that the revisions clarifies some of the borderline violations that have been occurring."
Hillegass then told the board she wanted the assigned detentions against her daughters dismissed.
"I want all those taken out of her record," she said. "I really want these taken out of their files because it's not right."
Scherer told Hillegass she would have to file a request with the building principal and put it in writing.
Scott Hillegass said he is beyond the point of frustration.
"I'm getting called at work, which is stopping my workday to get this shirt changed," Scott Hillegass said. "It baffles me that you can't have any consistency."
Hillegass said he's reached his boiling point.
"It's getting old; I've reached the end of my rope," he said. "We're taking further action; that's not a threat, it's a promise."
Scherer again reiterated that "we're hoping the clarifications will address these borderline issues."
Director Susan Debski said all of the uncertainty that surrounds the dress code further affirms why the district should switch to a uniform dress code.
Parent Lorra Haydt approached the board with her daughter to see if the clothes she had on was acceptable under the policy.
Scherer responded with the statement that "if your child is in compliance with this [policy], there shouldn't be a problem."
More comments were heard under the public participation portion listed at the end of the agenda.
Scott Hillegass asked whether the district's faculty and administration had to adhere to a dress code of their own.
Boyce said "the staff has a dress code; it's not identical to the student dress code."
MaryJo King, president of the S.S. Palmer/Parkside PTO, said she believes the revamped policy should lend itself to fewer incidents.
"With the revisions, there should be less infractions; it won't be so overboard," King said. "I think it will be less infractions, because these are much more realistic this time."
Resident Audrey Larvey, a retired teacher, said she agreed with King's assessment.
"It isn't the policy that's the problem; it's communication," Larvey said. "It's a good policy, a reasonable and fair policy, but if it's not communicated
At a workshop earlier this month, the board reviewed additional tweaks to the policy that once approved, would go into effect for the rest of the 2011-12 school year.
Some of the proposed changes - though the exact wording may differ in some instances - are as follows:
- Under guidelines, applicability, the insertion of the phrase, "with the guidelines of their parents", students have the responsibility to dress appropriately and to keep themselves, their clothes, and their hair clean.
- The following list identifies "appropriate" items of dress and grooming, and deletes the phrase "that are acceptable in school during the school day".
- Adds no "sliders", and deletes "soft sole"
- No clothing "which has been torn, ripped or cut in any way that bares anatomy or makes clothing overly suggestive or revealing or reveals undergarments"
- Jeans, skinny jeans, khakis, sweat pants and dress pants are permitted. Leggings, if worn "under" an article of clothing that complies with the dress code are permitted.
- "Gages must be capped".
Those proposed changes came after a Policy Committee meeting last month in which recommendations were made to help resolve the issue.
At that time, Boyce shared statistics that were gathered by high school administration and noted there were several primary areas of concern: torn, cut, or ripped clothing; inappropriate tops; improper footwear; and see-through garments.
From Aug. 30 through Sept. 16, Boyce said there were 72 infractions that pertained to torn, cut or ripped clothing; 54 for inappropriate tops; 28 for improper footwear; 16 for body piercings; 15 for skirts/pants worn at a length more than 3-inches; seven each for spandex and exposed undergarments/ nightwear; six for outerwears being worn; and four for oversized or too tight clothing, she said.
The dress code policy can be viewed on the district's web site, www.palmerton.org.