Clayton BOE to hear uniform-dress update

By Curt Yeomans


Less than a month after 1,500 Clayton County high school students protested Clayton County Public Schools' uniform-dress policy by refusing to come to school in designated attire, school system Superintendent Edmond Heatley will discuss the policy before the county's school board.

Heatley will discuss implementation of the policy with the Clayton County Board of Education when it meets on Monday, for its monthly work session. The meeting is scheduled to begin at 5:30 p.m., with a one-hour executive session. The meeting will be held at the Clayton County Public Schools Central Administration Complex, located at 1058 Fifth Ave., in Jonesboro.

"It's just going to be Dr. Heatley telling us where we are with this policy, and how the principals are enforcing it," said school board Chairperson Alieka Anderson.

This is the first school year in which all Clayton County students have been required to attend school while wearing uniform dress. Initially, decisions about whether a school went that route were made by officials at the school, with the support of parents.

During the 2008-2009 school year, the district implemented a policy that mandated all pre-kindergarten-through-sixth-grade students had to wear uniform dress to school. Some middle schools went a step further by requiring seventh- and eighth-graders to also wear uniform dress.

In July, the school board approved a policy change that made uniform dress mandatory for all of the school system's more than 50,000 students. The policy change met with some opposition from high school students, some of whom formed an anti-uniform-dress group on the social networking web site, Facebook.

That opposition culminated on Nov. 20, an early-release day for the district, when 1,500 students reportedly came to school out of uniform dress as a form of protest against the policy.

"Students who participated in this deliberate attempt to interrupt the school routine made a bad choice ... and need to be held responsible for that decision," Heatley said in a Nov. 24 written statement, explaining the students were disciplined by district officials over the protest.

District Spokesman Charles White said letters are being sent home to parents to let them know all students will be required to comply with the uniform-dress policy on the next early-release day, which will be Friday, Dec. 18.

Other items on the agenda for Monday's meeting include an update from Heatley on summer Criterion-Referenced Competency Test (CRCT) scores, and scores from this fall's Iowa Test of Basic Skills (ITBS).

The superintendent will also address the school board about the district's code of ethics and conflicts-of-interest policy. He is also expected to discuss with board members a review of all board policies pertaining to district organization and school board operations, according to the meeting agenda.

School system Director of Budgets and Grants Ramona Thurman and Director of Purchasing Lonita Collier are expected to present the district's finance, purchasing and Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST) III Revenue reports as information items.

District Chief Operations Officer Cephus Jackson is also expected to present information items, including the SPLOST Construction Update, as well as information pertaining to the American Red Cross, and the bid for renovation projects at Tara Stadium and Twelve Oaks Stadium. School System Chief Human Resources Officer Douglas Hendrix is expected to present the district's personnel changes report as an information item.

The final information item will be a presentation from district Executive Director of Professional Learning Cynthia Lee concerning the board's policy on professional development opportunities.