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Committee revises dress and groom policy

Published July 09. 2010 05:00PM

Any revisions to Palmerton Area School District's dress and groom policy if approved likely won't go into effect until January of 2011.

Members of the school board's Policy Committee on Thursday made numerous revisions to the policy, which will next be sent to the board solicitor for review.

At the onset of the meeting, Director Darlene Yeakel told the group to determine which of the four policies that were created last week by four teams it favored.

"You have to decide which version looks like the one you could choose that has the most you want to see," Yeakel said. "We will have one policy ready for the solicitor for review."

One change to the current policy Yeakel said she will present to the board to be changed before the start of the school year is that "clothing which advertises drugs, sexual and/or violent 'double meanings' will not be permitted."

Director Susan Debski said it was essential for the policy to be as clear cut as possible.

"The principals and teachers will have to memorize this, every single do and every single don't," Debski said. "The policy is for the long term, and it should be written once and be clear enough, concise enough, that it lasts for many years."

But, high school teacher Kerry Palumbo said she believes the proposed revisions were too subjective, and that the only way to alleviate that is to "go to a uniform."

High school Principal Kathy Egan concurred with Palumbo's sentiment.

"We agree on some things, but we don't agree on all," Egan said. "I don't want to have to make a judgment call."

Egan said she'd rather focus her time and effort on the educational process, rather than dress and grooming.

"I don't want to run a school that all we're worried about is a dress code," Egan said. "I don't have the time to enforce all this."

However, parent Mary Jo King noted the reason why the committee was on hand is because "the majority of parents did not want a uniform policy."

Still, Egan said the matter would have an adverse effect on the educational process.

"The educational program is going to suffer because of this," Egan said. "It's too subjective."

Junior high school Principal Thaddeus Kosciolek said it was important for everyone to work together.

"I'm definitely more in favor of a stricter uniform policy, as you all know," Kosciolek said. "But, I'm trying to compromise."

Parkside Education Center/S.S. Palmer Elementary Principal Mary Brumbach said the reason why the group was here "is because people were abusing the policy as it is here."

Regardless of which revisions may be made, Kosciolek said the matter needs to be implemented "as soon as possible."

The meeting was the second in a series of three meetings to be held by the committee. The final committee meeting will be held at 6 p.m. July 29.

The committee consists of district administrators, teachers and several parents from each of the five buildings in the district.

At a special meeting last month, the board agreed to form the committee to review the district's dress and groom policy.

Some of the proposed changes to the dress code policy discussed at that time would not allow flip flops, no noticeable underwear, no bare midriffs, no cleavage, no sweat pants, warmups or windbreakers, heels only up to 2-inches, skirts are to be knee-length, shorts are to be no more than 2-inches, and no holes in clothing, among others.

The board held brief conversation on the matter of hair color, but no proposed changes appeared to have been made with regard to that issue.

The dress and grooming policy was discussed at a board committee meeting in June, when it was decided that a special meeting was needed to revisit the matter.

Before that, the board in April held a special meeting in response to a request by Kosciolek, who said he believed the matter needed to be revisited because instances where the dress code is violated continue to escalate.

Kosciolek also said at that time he hoped the district would consider the adoption of a dress code similar to one adopted by the Tamaqua Area School District. He said Panther Valley and Pleasant Valley school districts have also adopted new dress codes.

Larry Wittig, president of Tamaqua Area School Board, attended that special meeting to discuss the successful dress code that was implemented in the Tamaqua Area School District five years ago.

Jim Thorpe Area School District last month adopted a new dress code for its students that will go into effect at the start of next school year.

Kosciolek said that in instances where students are in violation of the dress code, parents are called and asked to bring in something else to wear. If not, the students are placed in in-school suspension, he said.

Egan previously said the school has extra Palmerton Blue Bomber T-shirts, which students have the option to wear. Egan added at that time that a current problem pertains to the length of shorts worn by girls in the high school, where she said about 50 percent are not in compliance.

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