By Curt Yeomans
Certain kinds of clothing could be banned from Clayton County high schools during the 2009-2010 school year, depending on the outcome of a Board of Education vote scheduled to take place later this month.
School system Assistant Superintendent of High Schools Derrick Manning told board members this week that he and Interim Superintendent Valya Lee wanted to move forward with a uniform-dress policy for high schools. Manning said 65.9 percent of respondents to a survey on the issue conducted in May indicated they supported uniform dress in the county's nine high schools.
"The benefits are, it promotes academic focus and good school discipline," Manning said. "It increases school spirit and creates a sense of community, and it makes it easier to identify who our students are."
The board members voted to place the matter on the agenda for their July 13 business meeting. The 2009-2010 school year begins on Aug. 10. If the board approves the dress code change, students will be given a one-week grace period at the beginning of the school year to begin wearing uniform dress, Manning and Lee said.
Schools will also have extra sets of outfits for students who do not wear a compliant outfit to school, Lee said.
"There will be no one out of uniform," Lee said. "We're not trying to be punitive here. When our students are not in compliance with this policy, we're going to give them what they need to be in compliance."
But if the school board approves uniform dress for the high schools, it will be doing so without the amount of support the district has traditionally sought before implementing such a dress code in any Clayton County school.
For years, district officials have said 80 percent approval, obtained through survey responses, has been desired for implementation of school uniforms, or uniform dress. With 65.9 percent of survey respondents offering support for uniforms or uniform dress, the district will be acting with less than that 80 percent figure.
"Uniform dress is no different than having a dress code," Manning said. "We feel like that [65.9 percent approval] was an indicator that the community was in support of us moving forward with this."
School board Chairperson Alieka Anderson said the board will discuss the matter further with new Superintendent Edmond Heatley, who took over Wednesday, before making a decision about uniform dress.
One issue the board is going to look at is how to get the entire community, not just the 65.9 percent who responded favorably in the survey, to support the dress code change, Anderson said.
"We're hoping the community will buy into it," she said. "That's going to be looked at it when we discuss this with Dr. Heatley."
Manning put on a sort of fashion show for the board during its meeting Monday so members could see several variations of what the uniform dress outfits would look like at each Clayton County high school.
Manning said the switch to uniform dress, if approved by the school board, will mean students have to wear polo or button-down shirts that are either in school colors, or white, gray, black or light blue. Male students will have to wear khaki, navy blue or black pants or shorts, while female students will also have the option of wearing skorts, skirts or capri pants.
"I think they're going to look sharp," Manning said.