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By DAMON LAWRENCE
Administrators at Cherokee Middle School want to implement a new dress code policy.
Roane County Board of Education Member Kim Nelson said she thinks the policy goes too far.
“This new dress code is a complete overhaul of what this board has previously enacted,” Nelson said.
At last week’s board meeting Nelson made a motion that the board’s policy committee take up the issue before any new policy is enacted at Cherokee.
The motion passed 8-1, with Sam Cox voicing the lone no vote.
“The policy committee has a meeting on April 8 at 5 p.m., and we will take up this issue at that time,” Board Member Wade McCullough said.
“Before we have a run on khaki pants and all that, I think we do need to review it and make sure that what we are doing does fall in line with the county policy,” Board Member Rob Jago said.
Cherokee Principal Elizabeth Rose said student attire has become a big issue at the school.
“They come to school in their pajamas,” she said. “In their house shoes. They come to school with T-shirts that say things like ‘Hooters,’ ‘Chicks Dig My Long Board.’”
Since Christmas there’s been over 25 referrals for holes in jeans, Rose said.
The school board has a dress code policy, which Nelson said is sufficient to deal with any problems that Cherokee is having.
“It’s a good policy,” she said. “It covers all the issues — decency, respect for your class members, not creating a disruption.”
Board Member Darrell “Drack” Langley said he thought the schools were supposed to follow the board’s policy.
“Can every school have their own dress code?” he asked.
Director of Schools Toni McGriff said individual schools can have their own policy as long as it is not less strict than the board policy.
“I would suggest that you don’t want to get into the business of trying to set a policy for every individual school,” she told the board. “You want a broad-based policy regarding student attire.”
Rose said the only thing Cherokee is trying to do is implement a dress code that’s less distracting.
“If you really look at this, the only that they can’t wear are blue jeans and T-shirts,” she said.
Jago said that could create a financial hardship for some students.
“It’s a casual dress policy, which basically means you’re going to be dressing in corduroys or khaki pants, button-down shirts, polo shirts or whatever,” he said. “If you look, a lot of these kids, they’re in jeans and T-shirts because that’s the cheapest thing to get right now.”
Rose said the majority of parents she’s talked to have nothing but great things to say about the policy. Board Member Hugh Johnson said he’s heard from parents who say, “Why am I having to pay extra money to get clothing for a public education?”
Rose said designer clothes are also causing problems for some students at Cherokee.
“In our school, kids are trying to fit in,” she said. “If you don’t have that Aeropostale, Abercrombie, American Eagle on your shirt, on your jacket, somewhere on your body, it’s like, oh, you don’t know how to dress. I can’t tell you how many of the referrals were probably of picking on another child because they didn’t have or dress like someone thinks they’re supposed to dress.”
Board Chairman Mike “Brillo” Miller said that’s unacceptable.
“If we’re having problems with kids wearing Abercrombie, American Eagle or whatever, and that is causing other kids to feel wrong, then we need to look at that,” he said. “I don’t want any kid to feel like that they’re below some kids or made fun of because of it.”