Franklin County Schools to Relax Dress Code

by Leslie Lytle, Messenger Staff Writer

At the July 8 working session, the Franklin County School Board gave a nod of approval to the relaxed dress code proposed by middle school and high school administrators. The board also took up 24 proposed policy amendments and additions, many a direct result of state legislation.

North Middle School Principal Holly Eslick said school administrators met to consider revisions to the dress code. The two questions they asked were what was best for keeping the students in class and when did apparel and appearance pose a classroom distraction. The revised dress code allows logos of any size and jeans with holes. Eslick commented jeans with holes were the style, and when shopping, it was difficult to find jeans without holes. The revised dress code also allows piercings. School board member Lance Williams noted the prior prohibition of piercings, other than pierced ears, was adopted for safety reason. “If you want a piercing, you run the risk of having it ripped out,” Williams said.

On the suggestion of board member Linda Jones, the reference to hairstyle was removed. “Colored hair is not a big deal anymore,” Jones said. Director of Schools Stanley Bean concurred, observing he recently attended a graduation where the valedictorian had orange hair.

“This is a policy the students can live with, and the administration will be grateful for,” said board chair CleiJo Walker.

Policy changes recommended by the Tennessee School Board Association (TSBA) because of state legislation included the rule students could only participate in athletic events that aligned with the students’ sex as indicated on their birth certificate. The Interscholastic Athletics policy also required a code of conduct for coaches. Human Resources Supervisor Linda Foster said the school system already required coaches to sign an ethics code.

Another policy change required by state law forbids employees being declared essential and so exempt from emergency school closings. Williams pointed out maintenance employees were needed during school closings for snow removal. “Can we require some to come if it’s safe for them to get here?” Bean asked. Foster will check on the interpretation of the recommended change.

Taking up the policy dealing with student discipline, Foster said the TSBA recommended revisions that stressed positive behavior support and restorative practices. On the advice of board member Sarah Marhevsky, the more positive forms of disciplinary action will be moved up on the list of disciplinary options. “We need to give the people at the schools tools to handle discipline,” Marhevsky said. She also asked if corporal punishment as a discipline option could be removed from Level 1 Misbehaviors, which included actions such as classroom disturbances and tardiness. Foster said the principals requested corporal punishment be included in the Code of Conduct policy.

In another discipline related recommended change, to ensure students’ safety, the director of schools can refuse to assign a student who committed a violent offense to alternative school.

A brand-new recommended policy requires the school system to accommodate students’, teachers’, and employees’ requests for more privacy when using multi-occupancy restrooms.

Other suggested policy revisions require the school system to develop a cybersecurity plan; reduce the credits needed for early graduation from 18 to 17; and disallow religious exemption from required immunizations “in the event of COVID 19 or any variant outbreak.”