LAFAYETTE — Uniforms are still required for Lafayette Parish school system students, but some dress code rules will be more lax when they return to school next month after the School Board’s approval Wednesday of changes to the dress code policy.
The board voted 5-2 to approve revisions to the dress code policy for the school year, which begins Aug. 10 for students.
The revisions relaxed requirements related to socks, undershirt color, piercings, belt colors, shoes and hair length and style.
Board members Kermit Bouillion and Tommy Angelle voted against the dress code policy revisions.
Board members Mark Allen Babineaux, Mark Cockerham, Shelton Cobb, Rae Trahan and Tehmi Chassion voted in support of the policy change. Board members Hunter Beasley and Greg Awbrey were absent.
While students are still required to wear uniforms, they will be able to wear a school-designed and purchased T-shirt with their uniform pants, according to the dress code policy.
The color of students’ socks or the belt around their waist is not relevant to what should be happening in the classroom, Superintendent Pat Cooper said during Wednesday’s board meeting.
“The minutia has been discarded so teachers can focus on being academic specialists and not uniform police,” Cooper said.
Cockerham asked if staff considered any limitations on piercings and tattoos.
The policy revisions enable principals and teachers to make site-based decisions on whether piercings and tattoos distract from other studentslearning, said Bradley Cruice, district director of health and wellness.
Comeaux High teacher Lisa Ranney asked the board to reconsider the piercings policy and said she was concerned about the potential distractions in the classroom.
A motion to table the policy and send it back to a committee to clarify the piercing policy failed in a 3-4 vote. The motion to defer was supported by Bouillion, Cockerham and Angelle. Babineaux, Trahan, Cobb and Chassion voted against the motion to defer.
Angelle criticized the timing of the policy changes. School starts Aug. 10 and orientations at some schools begin July 31. The board’s next meeting is Aug. 1.
“They come to us, what, a month before school starts, then they say you’ve got to do it tonight,” Angelle said.
A committee of about 100 educators helped revise the policy and about 40 teachers on the committee pushed for the changes, said Brandi Gonzales, district supervisor of child welfare and attendance.
Trahan said while she thinks some of the changes will present enforcement issues, she would support them if teachers pushed for them.
“It’s coming from the educators. They want it. I say we give it to them,” Trahan said.
Other items discussed during the meeting included:
DISCIPLINE POLICY: The School Board in a 7-0 vote also approved changes to the district’s discipline policy, which includes removing expulsion as a consequence for student misbehavior.
Cooper said while sending a student home is no longer an option, support services and other discipline options are available to address a student’s misbehavior.
Counselors on campus and training for teachers on classroom management will be provided, he said.
The discipline policy provides a “guide” for each school leader to determine “how to incorporate the guide,” Cooper said.
Both policy revisions are meant to give principals greater flexibility in managing their campuses, the superintendent said.
As part of Cooper’s turnaround plan, principals have two years to raise their school’s state accountability scores by one letter grade or face losing their jobs.
REDISTRICTING: The School Board approved its redistricting plan, which keeps its districts aligned with the Lafayette Consolidated Council. The council adopted its plan last year and it has been approved by the U.S. Department of Justice.
The 2010 census showed Lafayette Parish grew by 16 percent in the past decade from 190,503 to 221,578 residents.