Changes to the dress code at Blue Ridge is not only impacting students, faculty and staff are also seeing changes.
At the Monday, July 29 meeting, the board approved the 2019-20 Faculty/Staff Handbooks and a member of the Blue Ridge Education Association asked to board for clarification about changes made to the staff dress code.
Michelle Montague said BREA was looking for a clarification on if and how the changes would affect the traditional “Denim Fridays.” She said many teachers wear t-shirts adorned with Blue Ridge logos that support district students and activities.
Superintendent Matthew Button said the t-shirts will no longer be allowed to be worn by staffers on Fridays, with occasional exceptions made for special events. He said the change was made in order to “clean up” the professional image of the staff all five days of the week.
Several parents also questioned the board about changes made to the student dress code that eliminates hooded sweatshirts and athletic pants as acceptable attire and limits the dates students can wear shorts to school.
One mother told the board her child has special needs and wearing uncomfortable clothing could hinder her son’s focus while in school. She said she wanted to clarification from the board on the dress code before heading out to shop for school clothes.
Board President Chris Lewis said the district would be understanding of students with sensory issues and accommodations would be made. He advised parents to call school administrators for more guidance.
But the mother said if accommodations are made, “Our kids will stand out.”
Director of Special Education Margot Parsons, who worked in another district with uniforms, said accommodations were made for students there and there was “never a word spoken” and students didn’t notice another student wasn’t wearing the same thing.
Another parent asked what prompted the district to eliminate hooded sweatshirts.
Lewis said concerns were related to security, as well as the number of students hiding Juul-like e-cigarette devices in the garments. He said hours were being spent on discipline and “that’s not what we should be focusing on.”
As for regulating the dates when shorts can be worn to school, Lewis said the district felt students should be dressed appropriately in the winter and cited state attendance policies. He said allowing for students to not be properly dressed in the winter could result in sickness. He also defended the banning of athletic pants and pajama bottoms saying the district was preparing students to be successful with there dress.
The father said he disagreed with the use of “collective punishment” instead of enforcing the rules already in place that prohibit smoking and the use of e-cigarettes or vapes.
Board member Edward Arnold said he was opposed to banning hoodies until he watched security footage of a student walking in the hall with hood pulled over his head.
The father said the policy of not having the hood up should be enforced instead of prohibiting the garment.
Lewis said the discipline takes up countless hours and the board felt it had gotten to the level where they needed to “do away with it.”
“At the end of the day, we’re not going to agree on this,” Lewis said. “The handbook is approved the way it is.”
Also before the board was the approval of images of the school mascot and logos. The board approved the images presented but eliminated the inclusion of two depictions of Native Americans wearing a full headdress. The remaining images were approved, despite one audience member expressing her concern about the images.
The board also voted to hire two teachers: Stephanie Surowka-Sanders was hired as a long term substitute emotional support teacher and Chase Floyd was hired as a secondary science teacher.