Obion County BOE lifts restrictions with streamlined dress code revisions

April 09, 2019

Following extensive discussion by members of the Obion County Board of Education during their recent board retreat, Director of Schools Dr. Leah Watkins presented a draft of a revised version of the school system’s student dress code to board members during regular board session Monday evening.

Meeting at South Fulton Elementary School’s Cafeteria, Dr. Watkins provided board members Fritz Fussell, Brian Rainey, Jared Poore, Keisha Hooper, Tim Britt, Barry Adams and Kyle Baggett with the draft, to become effective immediately.

According to board member Keisha Hooper, the new dress code went from “about five pages to one page” in reference to restrictions with board member Tim Britt describing the revisions as a method to make the dress code more “simple.”

Dr. Watkins requested the new code take effect immediately, she said in order to allow parents enough time to consider clothing purchases with the change of seasons.

Among changes will be the elimination of the requirement that students may only wear collared shirts, in solid colors with no design or pattern. Also stricken was the requirement shirts must be a contrasting color to the pants, socks must be a single, solid color and shoe laces must be a single color, the same color with only one pair of laces per shoe and shoes must be the same color. Students will no longer be restricted from wearing vests, light jackets, school jackets, sweaters, sweatshirts and cardigans with hoods.

The streamlined version of the Standard Dress Code designates guidelines for all clothing, such as all items of clothing must be property sized, without holes or tears, as well as items which will be prohibited, such as gloves worn inside school facilities; sweatpants, wind pants, pajama pants, jogging suits or warm up suits.

The most significant revisions, however, involve items which are not listed as prohibited by the dress code, such as non-collared shirts, patterned or hooded shirts.

No clothing is allowed which indicates drug culture or gang membership, supports gang behavior or is gang identified.

Skirts, dresses, skorts, jumpers and any similar type clothing must be worn at or two finger widths above the knee or longer, with leggings only allowed to be worn if paired with an appropriate dress.

No sports shorts are allowed, however shorts worn must be hemmed and extend two finger widths above the knee or longer.

Shirts must cover the entire upper body, with no sleeveless shirts allowed. Heavy coats, jackets or rain coats will not be allowed inside the building.

Shoes may have heels no higher than one and one half inches, with athletic shoes, sandals and boots allowed, however no house shoes or flip flops will be permitted.

Regarding headwear, earrings, and jewelry piercings, clothing or jewelry which indicates drug culture or gang membership or support is not allowed, nor jewelry or hair accessories that may be construed as dangerous or distracting. Pierced jewelry is limited to earrings only, with students allowed to wear two pairs of earrings provided the earrings are not distracting or present a safety issue.

All tatoos, brands and body piercings must be covered completely at all times; no non-prescribed mouth accessories such as “grills” may be worn; and hats, toboggans, bandanas, headscarves, sweatbands, stocking caps, hair racks/combs, hair roller, combs, rakes, do rags and sunglasses are prohibited in buildings.

All teams or clubs shall travel in adherence to the dress code and or team uniform, including on field trips.

Haircuts, hairstyles or hair color that is non-traditional to the point of causing distractions is not allowed.

Ultimately, the principal or designee has the authority to determine if the attire is improper and interferes with the teaching or learning process, or is prejudicial to good order at school.

Board chair Fritz Fussell noted the current dress code had been in effect for several years and the board believed it was time to consider an “overhaul”, with input from the public, students, parents and school staff.

During the school recognition portion of the April 8 Obion County School Board’s agenda, a number of students were recognized, including South Fulton Middle School Beta Club State Convention winners Anna Kate Lawrence ,who placed first in Junior Photography and Steward Conner, who placed fifth in Sixth Grade Social Studies. SFMS Beta Club sponsors are Marina Greer and Leah McFarland.

Students from South Fulton High School and Obion County Central High School were recognized by the board as part of the ACT 30+ group of students who scored 30 or higher on their ACT test.

From South Fulton, those students included Owain Balance a senior who scored a 33, Payton Allen, a senior, who scored at 31, Carly Robertson, a senior who scored a 31, Alexis Watkins, a senior who scored a 31 and Cody Collier, a junior, who scored a 31.

From Obion County Central High School, students included seniors India Frost, who scored a 35, Silas Freeze, a 33, Matthew Hooks, a 31, Brandon Beard, 31, Madelyn Fields, 30, and juniors, Sam Ferguson, 34, Kyndall Albright, 30, Kaylee Cook, 30, Will Crawford, 31, Nathan Hartley, 30, Jacob Hudspeth, 30 and Emma Johnson, 30.

In the personnel report, resignations listed included Mark Jackson teacher at Lake Road; Kaitlyn Laubach, teacher at South Futon Middle/High School; Lou Ann Peery, Assistant Principal at Hillcrest and Johanna Gutierrez, bus driver at Hillcrest.

Retirements announced included Ronald Ramage and Emily Haynes, teachers at Obion County Central High School; Carlton Kizer, bus driver at South Fulton Elementary; and at Lake Road cafeteria Manager Dorothy Barnes, Librarian Cheryl Ross, teacher Ellen Bowden, bus driver Mike Muse an custodian Jeff Hayslett.

New hires were Katelyn Gibb, special education assistant at Lake Road and Joseph Sanders,, bus driver at Obion County Central; and leaves of absence were granted for Tonya Cochran, teacher at Obion County Central, Melashia Holt, teacher at South Fulton Elementary and Amanda Bailey, librarian at Hillcrest.

The new list of additions for substitute teachers included Lynsey Davis, Randi Lynn McBride, Debra Stringer, Teresa Rose and Virginia Harper.

An amendment to Board Policy 5.6001, Staff Dress Code, was approved by the board with a recommendation from Director of Schools Dr. Leah Watkins, with the addition of the allowance of properly fitting, neat, hemmed jeans or knee length shorts which may be worn, with the final decisions on appropriate dress resting with the campus administration or supervisor of transportation with an emphasis placed on system wide consistency.

One overnight trip was requested and approved, for Hillcrest Plus, for an extra curricular activity to Nashville, Tenn., May 3-5.

Obion County Central High School Band submitted a request to the board to declare surplus the band uniforms no longer in use by the school, and further, requested permission to sell the uniforms for funds to help offset the cost of future purchases.

Among items requested to declare surplus and sell were jumpsuits, red, white and blue silk flags, assorted white uniforms, red jumpsuits, burgundy glitter tops, black vests/tops, blue fleece lined hooded capes, Lyrical dress, and Under the Sea costumes.

With Dr. Watkins’ recommendation, the board approved the sale.

Two resolutions were presented to board members for their review and approval, a Resolution To Amend The General Purpose School Fund Budget and the Eduction Savings Accounts Resolution.

The budget amendment was the result of damage to the bar joist and roof decking at South Fulton Elementary in January of 2019, caused by a bread truck during delivery to the cafeteria, with expenses incurred to repair the damage, as well as insurance recovery funds. The expenditures and revenue were not included in the original budget approved previously by the school board and the Obion County Commission, with damages/expense and insurance recovery in the amount of $$11,200.

The additional resolution pertained to the Tennessee General Assembly, in the 2019 legislative session, may entertain legislation that would create an Education Savings Account, ESA, program allowing quallifying parents to use public funds for private education options, such as private school tuition online course work and homeschool expenses, etc.

The resolution contends tat while an ESA may be structured somewhat differently than traditional vouchers, it is still a redirection of public education dollars to private institutions. It goes on to state “the Constitution of the State of Tennessee requires that the Tennessee General Assembly provide for the maintenance, support and eligibility standards of a system of free public schools...” with no mention of maintenance or support of private institutions.

The resolution cites a number of concerns regarding ESA’s , such as the elimination of public accountability by channeling tax dollars into private institutions; a risk of fraud; leaving students with the greatest needs behind as public education dollars are channeled into private institutions that may not be required to accept all students; and the diversion of critical dollars and commitment from public schools to pay private education options for a few students, including many who already attend private schools or home schools.

The resolution designates the Obion County Board of Education’s opposition to any legislation or other similar effort to create an ESA program in Tennessee that would divert money intended for public education to private entities.

The Obion County Textbook Adoption Committees, appointed by the school board in October, 2018, met all requirements of the state and have completed their adoption process for textbooks, with recommendations for the 2019-2020 school year for a six year cycle for Social Studies grades 3-5; Social Studies grades 6-8; Social Studies grades 9-12; Business/Marketing; and Spanish 1 and 2.

Sarah Frazier, who teaches Ag at Obion County Central High School, addressed the board regarding her request to initiate a class , to expand student participation in the program, Pet Grooming. Frazier presented research she conducted on the class, which includes a business plan prepared by students, enabling them to perform dog grooming for pet owners, and ultimately perform services for pets such as clipping nails, checking the animal, and bathing. She said the funds generated from performing the services would be returned to the program to assist with expenses for supplies. The board approved her recommendations.