The Weakley County School Board voted to temporarily permit students in 6th through 12th-grades to wear solid-colored T-shirts until Labor Day, Sep. 4, after much discussion was had surrounding the issue.
Sharon resident Susan Steffens spoke during public comment illuminating the board on how certain schools in the county had posted on social media that students could wear solid color T-shirts. Steffens said that parents then went out during tax-free weekend to purchase the shirts, just for the board to later express that solid color T-shirts were not permitted under the dress code policy. “This is unacceptable,” Steffens noted.
The board discussed the issue and board member John Hatler said that the board had a level of responsibility regarding the matter. “There was a 3–4-day window where incorrect information was available online. I hate for children to have a hardship on our behalf. Maybe we can allow students to screen-print so it doesn’t financially impact families. We need to try to do something to alleviate short-term and utilize resources we have,” Hatler expressed. He suggested allowing parents to bring T-shirts purchased during the tax-free weekend to the screen-printing shop at Dresden High School for school logos to be added to the shirts.
While the board didn’t vote on the screen-printing at DHS, WCS Communications Director Erica Moore later clarified the confusion by noting, “Equipment, on-hand material, necessary resources, and logistics are all considerations that will be matters of discussion for the board at a later time.”
“All students who attend Weakley County Schools are permitted to wear attire that is outlined in the School Board Dress Code Policy, as well as solid colors (T-shirts) until Labor Day,” Weakley County School Board vice-chair Josh Moore said.
At the Thursday’s school board meeting, Weakley County Schools Director Jeff Cupples said, “As it was put in when we amended it during COVID last time, the spirit wear was to try to build school spirit and if it’s a solid T-shirt and it’s in those school colors, the policy reads that it’s at the principal’s discretion on that.”
The Weakley County Schools Policy reads, “The principal or designee has the authority to determine if any attire is improper, detrimental to the teaching-learning process, or prejudicial to good order at the school.”
Weakley County Schools Dress Code Policy for 6th-12th-graders has changed over the years, most allowing students to not have to tuck in their shirts, not have to wear a belt, solid-colored hoodies and spirit wear and school organization T-shirts.
Hatler said, “it has improved culture in our buildings by allowing spirit wear.” Moore stated, “Spirit wear was added to the district’s dress code policy in an effort to promote school spirit and a sense of community among the students. Spirit wear can also help reflect school values and enhance school culture.”
The dress code policy is county-wide and states, “The mission of Weakley County Schools is to provide an education environment that will encourage students to achieve their full potential as they prepare for unique roles as contributing members of our complex and changing society. It is with this important mission in mind to prepare our students, in the least disruptive setting possible, to take their place in the ever-changing, ever competitive workplace.”
The use of clear backpacks was discussed by Cupples, who said that the board would further discuss the issue in January during a workshop. Concerns were raised regarding how flimsy clear backpacks are and how students have been carrying their entire course materials, some weighing upwards of 28 pounds or more, during school all day and the potential risk of the backpacks not holding up. There was discussion on students being allowed to use their lockers again, whereas lockers were unable to be used during the COVID outbreak to keep social distancing in place. No vote was made on the issue, however.
The Board approved the second reading of the district water testing, which states that all district facilities before Jan. 1 1998 shall be tested for lead every two years and if test results show that lead levels exceed 15 parts per billion but are below 20 parts, the building shall conduct lead level tests on an annual basis to continue until lead levels are under 15 parts. If test results show that lead levels equal or exceed 20 parts, the school will have to immediately remove the drinking water source from service until retesting confirms that lead levels don’t exceed 20 parts per billion.
A first reading of the school’s social media policy passed. This policy details professional use of social media and employees’ personal use of social media and states, “The use of social media should be designed to reasonably support instructional, educational, or extracurricular programs under the direct supervision of building administration. WCS employees will be held accountable for the content of the communications they post on social media sites.”
The next school board meeting will be held Thursday, Sept. 7, at 5 p.m. at Westview High School.