By Curt Yeomans
Clayton County Public Schools Superintendent Edmond Heatley said Monday that any students who violate the uniform-dress policy on Friday will have to spend an extra three and half hours in school, rather than start their winter vacation with their classmates.
Heatley told members of the board of education that dress-code violators will receive after-school detention, and not be allowed to go home when the school day ends Friday, an early release day.
The move is in response to a protest last month by 1,500 high school students, who came to school "out of uniform dress" on an early-release day right before the Thanksgiving week vacation. Heatley said students who participated in that protest were suspended for attempting to disrupt the operation of their schools.
"It's a rule, like any other rule, and it will be enforced," he said. "We know this is coming. This is a pre-emptive strike to make sure that any efforts we need to take to minimize the disruption are taken."
He said school principals have already recorded telephone messages to parents, and sent letters home, to explain the punishment for students who show up to school dressed improperly. The superintendent said he will also send out a recorded telephone message on Wednesday to remind parents of the punishment.
If a student's parents do not want him or her to sit in detention, where class work will be assigned, the student can be released early -- but only into the custody of his or her parent or guardian, according to Heatley.
"We want parents to know, 'If your child comes to school out of uniform dress on Friday, they are going to remain in school for the full day and they will only be released into your care,' " the superintendent said.
Since Friday is an early-release day, elementary schools are scheduled to release students at 11:15 a.m.; high schools will release students at 11:45 a.m., and middle schools will release their students at 12:20 p.m., according to a school system press release.
Students who come to school in uniform dress will be allowed to ride the bus home. Students who violate the uniform dress policy, however, will not get that privilege. The school system will not take home any student who has to serve detention, Heatley said.
"We're not going to reward their bad behavior by spending district funds to take them home," he said. "[Transportation] will be their responsibility, or the responsibility of their parent, to arrange."
School Board Chairperson Alieka Anderson said she is in support of putting students in after-school detention for violating the policy, saying emphatically that the school board expects students to comply with the policy. "They are enforcing a board policy," Anderson said. "Uniform dress is a policy that was set by this board, and we have to follow it."
Heatley said the district is making parents a factor in the disciplining of students who violate the policy on Friday, because "when the parent has to keep being inconvenienced because of the child's bad behavior, I'm pretty sure they'll jump on board fairly quickly."
Parents at one school have already planned an effort to encourage students to comply with the policy. In an e-mail to parents and teachers last week, Jonesboro High School Parents on Patrol Coordinator Darrell Campbell called for volunteers to hand out Chick-Fil-A coupons to students who show up to school on Friday in appropriate dress.
"Let us come together and join with our educators as one voice to encourage students to follow established rules," Campbell said.