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Palmerton may try to tighten current policy

Published May 06. 2010 05:00PM

Rather than switch to a uniform dress code, Palmerton Area School District may attempt to tighten up its current policy.

At least that was the general consensus expressed by a majority of the school board's Curriculum, Athletics, Personnel and Policy Committee this week.

As expected, the district's dress and grooming policy was again revisited several weeks after a special board meeting was held on the same topic.

At that time, the district held a special meeting in response to a request by junior high school Principal Thaddeus 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 the special meeting to discuss the successful dress code that was implemented in the Tamaqua Area School District five years ago. With about 2,300 students, Wittig said Tamaqua has a similar student enrollment to that of Palmerton.

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.

Before it heard from the public on Tuesday, Barry Scherer asked fellow committee members to weigh in on the dress code matter.

Committee member Tina Snyder asked how the district upholds the section of the student handbook that deals with student dress and grooming policy.

"What is done if a child doesn't follow this? We have what (they're) supposed to wear, but don't say what will happen if they don't," she stated.

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.

High school Principal Kathy Egan said the school has extra Palmerton Blue Bomber T-shirts, which students have the option to wear.

Egan added 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.

When Snyder asked if the occurrences are tracked, Kosciolek and Egan said they are not.

"If we would spell that out in here, where we would have a first offense, second offense, third offense ..." Snyder said. "How many aren't (in compliance)?

Egan told Snyder there are "more than you think."

Regardless, Snyder said she doesn't believe a uniform dress code is the way to go.

"I don't think putting them in a particular shirt, particular pants, or a particular color is going to eliminate all the problems," Snyder said.

However, Kosciolek said the current dress code is difficult to invoke.

"My big thing in dealing with the students is that they learn from what they do and not repeat that," Kosciolek said. "The policy we have now is very hard to enforce."

Committee member Susan Debski said she could see both sides of the story.

"I can understand where administration is coming from, but there are a lot of people who do want it (a uniform dress code) as well," Debski said. "It's an extremely vague dress code policy."

As a mother of three teenage daughters who attend school in the district, Debski added that she believes teachers need to "lead by example, and they need to follow the same dress code policy."

"I tell my children what is acceptable (to wear)," Debski said. "Individuality does not come from clothing, it comes from what's inside."

Resident Patti Green asked why the district chose to focus on the dress code matter.

"Are we trying to cover up the problem?" she asked. "Aren't we supposed to teach them an example of right from wrong?"

Resident Pam Fludgete told the committee she was in favor of a uniform dress code.

"There are a lot of benefits for the dress code," Fludgete said. "Our tax money is to go toward education, not how our children dress."

Committee member Michael Ballard suggested that the district not only maintain the current policy it has, but make it more stringent.

"My idea is to tighten up what we have," Ballard said. "Why not try it for a year and see what happens?

Committee member Clarence Myers said he agreed with Ballard's idea.

Based on the suggestions he heard from the committee, as well as the public who were on hand, Scherer said the district will attempt to tighten up the policy, instill the consequences, and track the number of incidents.

The committee also discussed the possible formation of a districtwide committee to review the policy at some point.

"My concern is we're going to be stuck with the same policy we have next year," Scherer said. "If we're going to spend the time to do it, let's do it and do it right."

But, Kosciolek said he doesn't believe doing so will completely address the situation.

"My concern is we did that a year ago," Kosciolek said. "If anything, it's become worse this year."

Kosciolek then asked the committee for time to come up with suggestions to make the policy more specific.

"I would like to be able to come up with recommendations to the board by next month," Kosciolek said. "Something generic to allow us to easily enforce that."

Scherer said the board plans to arrive at some sort of decision as quickly as it can.

"We will make every effort possible to get this done as soon as possible," Scherer said.

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