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Standardized dress code unlikely

Published May 03. 2012 05:01PM

Palmerton Area School District doesn't appear likely to switch to a standardized dress code any time soon.

Instead, the current policy may be fine-tuned, as was implied by a consensus of school board directors at a workshop meeting on Tuesday.

Superintendent Carol Boyce said the purpose of the discussion was to review the status of the policy, which went into effect in September.

"We wanted to monitor how things were going," Boyce said. "This seemed like the logical time to do that review."

Boyce then asked building principals for their thoughts on the policy.

Thad Kosciolek, junior high school principal, said the current policy has been difficult to deal with.

"It's frustrating, because it's very hard to enforce it; it's ambiguous, hard to define, and the kids take advantage of it," Kosciolek said. "My opinion is there should be some kind of standardized dress."

Kathy Egan, high school principal, noted that the current policy is "very seasonal as well."

Often times, Egan said the dialogue between herself and students who violate the dress code "turns into a confrontational situation."

"It's ambiguous, open to interpretation, and I feel we have to go to standardized dress," Egan said. "Because what we have is not working."

Egan said administrators aren't sure what direction to take.

"We get called names, our staff gets called names; I don't think that's what we're here to do," she said. "It's becoming a war zone on the dress code."

Christine Steigerwalt, Towamensing Elementary principal, reported that the matter isn't as much of an issue for her, as well as Mary Brumbach, S.S. Palmer Elementary/Parkside Education Center principal.

"At the elementary level, it can be seasonal," Steigerwalt said. "Usually if we tell them once, it does not happen again."

Director Charles Gildner said he believes the situation needs to be rectified.

"Our teachers should be teaching," Gildner said. "It shouldn't fall on the teachers to have to do that."

Egan told the board more of her time should be devoted toward educational matters, as opposed to the dress code.

Kosciolek added that the dress code "didn't address the issues that we always had."

"We get frustrated with the parents who aren't cooperative and chew our heads off," Kosciolek said. "The parents who are cooperative say they wish we would go to standardized dress."

When asked if they thought a standardized dress code would be the solution, all three principals nodded their head in approval.

At that, Gildner said he wasn't for a standardized dress code, an opinion that appeared to be shared by the consensus of the board.

However, Director Susan Debski said she doesn't believe the current approach has worked.

"With everything listed as it is, it's impossible to go over everything," Debski said. "We were very lax, we changed it to something that was very restrictive; either we have to have nothing, or we have to have what they need."

Board President Barry Scherer offered his take on the situation.

"I think the intent of the policy was to try and tie up any loose ends; apparently, that hasn't happened," Scherer said. "Because kids will violate it; kids are kids."

Boyce said it's the job of administration to enforce the policy the best way that it can.

"I think the issue is all of us, as administrators, have a duty to follow whatever is listed in the policy book, which is board originated," Boyce said. "That's exactly where we are right now."

Director Sherry Haas suggested the board look to whittle down some of the infractions, and added that the policy in its present form "is tedious."

Debski pointed out that there are several school districts in the area who have been successful with a standardized dress code.

Director Tammy Recker, who is also a teacher in the district, said she believes it's a teacher's job to teach, and not be dress code enforcers.

Director Clarence Myers said he believes there does need to be some type of guidelines; however, he said he did not want to switch to a standardized dress code.

Fellow teacher Kerry Palumbo added that she also believes there needs to be some guidelines in place.

Retired teacher Audrey Larvey added "one of the things we're here to teach is acceptable behavior."

"We have to give them some guidelines," Larvey said. "Our job is to set boundaries, but reasonable ones."

At that, Scherer requested board members to review the policy, and bring any questions or concerns they have with them to the June 5 workshop.

Boyce said some form of action would need to be taken at that point in time.

In November, the board agreed to accept the second reading of Policy #221 Pupils - Dress and Grooming.

At that time, Egan said the number of infractions had decreased due in part to the revisions in the policy.

The revised policy is posted on the district's web site,

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