Dothan Board of Education will re-institute a uniform policy for grades 9 through 12 beginning next school year.
Last year, the school moved to a more lax dress code policy for high school students, while keeping the uniform policy for K-8 students.
The school board unanimously voted for the uniform policy as part of a revised code of conduct for the entire system during Thursday’s school board meeting.
Before the vote, an incoming Dothan High sophomore publically presented an emotional plea to the board to reconsider. She said the school board should consider that for some low-income or single-parent families like her own, the cost of uniforms can be a financial burden.
“While to you, it may just be uniforms, to me and many others, it is money that could have paid a bill, bought us food, kept our water and electricity on or paid rent so we could have a home,” Kendall Poteate said to the board. “The message that uniform policies send us is that sometimes you don’t think about our financial stability or ability to live a life out of poverty.”
Poteate said she went to local stores and calculated that five days’ worth of uniform clothes, including shirts, pants, and one pair of shoes for the week, cost between $200 to $500 per child. She added that the policy poses an unnecessary burden on families who also have to buy regular weekend clothes and that some schools that don’t have a uniform policy have less disciplinary issues with dress code.
Scott Faulk, director of safety, security and attendance, along with board members, commended Poteate on her willingness to give her testimony and ability to articulate hers and her classmates’ concerns.
Faulk told the board that parents at several meetings he conducted were overwhelmingly positive about imposing a uniform policy. It will be up to administrators to make sure the uniform policy and code of conduct is adhered to for all students.
He hopes that consistency from his office, school administration, and teachers will create a message for students: “We want you to come to school, we want to come to school prepared, and we want you to come to school to be successful.”
While the motion passed, Faulk said there was help for needy families.
At most schools, there are uniform closets, where students can borrow donated uniform clothes. There is also financial help available for homeless students, who are encouraged to contact DCS administration.
The uniform policy features khaki, blue, or black bottoms and collared solid-colored shirts. Students in grades 7-12 are allowed to wear sandals, as long as straps are fastened around the back of the ankle.
Principals may make exceptions for Dothan Wolves school spirit t-shirts or special days to wear jeans.
The full code of conduct, including the uniform policy, can be found here.
The approved code of conduct also featured harsher punishments for violators at Class III offenses.
Faulk said that his office and principals’ offices have received many concerned phone calls from the public in regards to the matter.
“They wanted something with a little bit more bite – a little tougher,” Faulk said in an interview with the Eagle. “Our goal is not to put children out of school, but we want students who come and want an education to have that ability to receive that education without any issues or hurdles…”
Now, many offenses, such as arson, drug possession, vandalism and carrying a weapon to school – even a small pocket knife – will warrant an automatic recommendation for expulsion from the Dothan City School system.
Other Class III offenses will grant students an automatic pass to P.A.S.S. academy for 90 days. If a student violates any class III offense twice, they will be recommended for expulsion.
Students are given the opportunity to take part in a student disciplinary tribunal for a hearing, made up of three principals from different schools other than the one they attend, but withhold the option to waive that right.
The cell phone policy remains the same in the code, but the policy itself is subject to change. A committee will decide the rule after more public feedback. So far, Faulk said, the public has been split.
While he finds that cell phones are disruptive to the school day, he considers that many students involved in sports or extracurricular who stay late at school may need them to contact parents.
He plans to hold meetings with parents in July to discuss the matter, and bring the recommended policy at the July school board meeting.