This discussion surfaced when a proposed revision to the Student Code of Conduct came up on the action agenda. The revised rule would make headwear taboo on Stokes County campuses while school is in session.
Board member Becky Boles was the first to bring up the subject when she asked what the rationale behind the new rule was.
Boles’ fellow board member Sonya Cox spoke up next to ask why children couldn’t wear toboggans when they had to walk outside in cold or rainy weather to change classes. She questioned why the board had to start saying something on every little issue in schools. “Can’t principals just say, ‘Take it off’?” Cox asked.
Chairman of the Board Bill Hart noted that schools have covered walkways. Cox disagreed, saying that some schools don’t. Hart then came back with the idea that much of the headwear is just a fad and that it’s easier not to have it at all. “If you control simple things,” he stated, “difficult things won’t happen.”
Stokes County Schools Superintendent Dr. Stewart Hobbs interjected that allowing students to wear hats in class is “opening a can of worms.”
Cox replied that she wasn’t asking for students to be allowed to wear hats in class. She also pointed out that many team sweatshirts worn by students have hoods on them. She suggested that perhaps the revision could be rephrased to state that students can’t wear those hoods on their heads.
Hart’s stance on the new revision was firm. “It’s just a hassle over and over again,” he said, referring to the constant problem principals have reported of teachers having to tell students to take their headwear off in class.
Hobbs agreed, adding that the principals are the primary ones who wanted this new rule. “Teachers have more important things to deal with than minute things,” he added. “As soon as they’re [students] out of our sight, they’re going to put it [headgear] back on.”
Board member Colon Moore suggested that the rule could be made more specific, with the parking lot as a separate mention, in case students needed to wear headgear as they walked from their vehicles in bad weather. It was then asked what about students who have to go out on the track.
Hobbs said that if it was cold enough to wear a hood or toboggan, it was too cold to be on the track. Cox said that often students still are. She stated firmly, “If my kids was walking in from the parking lot in the rain or freezing rain, I’d hope they could wear a toboggan or hat.”
Board member Steve Shelton interjected the thought that often this headgear is part of students’ identities in gangs. Hobbs added that it’s also easy for kids to hide things in their hats, such as drugs.
Boles pointed out that professional people often wear hats to work, take them off in respect while inside then put them back on when they leave. “We’re not talking about professionals,” Hobbs replied. “We’re talking about children.”
After Shelton asked if the policy applied to all grade levels, Cox noted that the revised rule does say elementary schools will adhere to this as closely as possible, leaving some room for exception.
Hobbs also reiterated the point that the rule would apply only during school hours. Before and after school, students can wear headgear on school property.
School Attorney Fred Johnson pointed out the line in the code of conduct that states a student can wear certain headgear with permission of school administration for medical, religious or other necessary purposes.
The proposed revision to the Student Code of Conduct was eventually passed by the board.
“It is my hope that commonsense will prevail,” Cox concluded.
In other business at Monday night’s meeting, the board discussed the fact that the State of North Carolina still has no budget in place. Melisa Jessup, Executive Director of Human Resources, said that the expected drop in enrollment, especially at King and Mt. Olive Elementary schools, worried her with regard to keeping all teachers on staff. She noted that about 14-15 teaching positions had been saved by the release of the “double dippers,” the retirees who had continued teaching. “We could still lose a handful in the elementary grades,” she concluded.
Hobbs added that 25-30 teacher’s assistants might also have to be let go. Already word from Raleigh is that third grade TAs will be cut statewide. Hobbs has tried to look at every possible option to save jobs, for example, cutting TAs to nine-month schedules or cutting their hours back to 30 per week in order to allow them to keep benefits. However, the county doesn’t have enough TAs to cut all of them back to 30 hours.
The dilemma now is whether or not to notify teachers and TAs who may lose their jobs. “It’s July,” Cox stated. “I feel these people need to be identified and told.” Boles and Shelton agreed with her.
More information is expected to be forthcoming from the State of North Carolina in the near future.
The school board’s next meeting is their pre-board work session on Tuesday, August 4, at 8:30 a.m. at the Central Office in Danbury.