BOE votes to change dress uniform policy for high school students

JONESBORO — Clayton County high school students will now be able to choose what they wear to school.

The policy change will take effect in August.

In a 6-1 vote with one abstention, the Board of Education voted Monday evening to accept Superintendent Morcease Beasley’s recommendation to allow students in grades nine-12 to wear appropriate everyday attire rather than uniform dress. Board member Jasmine Bowles voted against the measure, while Ophelia Burroughs abstained from the vote, stating she didn’t want to get rid of the uniform dress at this point.

“I remember what it was like when they didn’t wear the uniforms,” she said. “There was a whole lot of abuse.”

Students spoke in favor of the change during public participation at the BOE meeting.

Rachel McBride, a ninth-grader at North Clayton High, said she felt uniforms created a sense of “institutionalization.”

“The county is supposed to be raising us to be free-thinking, competitive-thinking students, but what we’re teaching them is to think linear,” McBride said.

High school student Nia Gillem said she’s attended schools with and without a uniform dress code.

“Dress code doesn’t affect student performance,” she said.

Gillem noted that students will have expectations to follow when it comes to dress.

“I know a lot of adults feel that taking away the uniform will cause chaos, but it wouldn’t be unbalanced,” she said.

Under the uniform dress code policy, students were required to wear khaki, black or blue shorts or slacks and white, gray, black or light blue button-down or polo-style shirts.

The new policy states that students can choose their clothing according to the district’s dress code and standard of dress expectation.

The policy lists a number of items unacceptable to wear, including clothing associated with gangs and discrimination, as well as mesh, transparent or see-through clothing.

All clothing must be completely buckled, belted, buttoned or fastened and not sagging. Additionally, students are not allowed to wear clothing, jewelry (including body piercing and “grills,”) buttons, haircuts, tattoos, or other such attire or markings which are offensive, suggestive, disruptive or indecent.

The policy includes additional guidelines for clothing, outer garments, design, shoes and headgear.

The uniform dress code for students kindergarten through eighth grade will remain unchanged.

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Education reporter Heather Middleton joined the Clayton News and Henry Herald in 2002.