No vote on dress code

Three members of the public shared their concerns about Newton-Conover City Schools’ proposed standard code of dress policy Monday night.

Then four members of the school board addressed some of those concerns and voiced their own. Board members had enough concerns that the dress code policy was not voted on.

Board member Kyle Drum made a motion to approve the policy, but no one made a second.

“So there will be no standard code of dress at the elementary schools,” said Scott Loudermelt, the board chairman. “At least not for now.”

Jennifer Ingle of Conover was the first to speak about the standard code of dress policy during the forum before the time to vote.

Ingle said she’s a teacher at Newton-Conover High School and the parent of a high-functioning autistic son who attends Thornton Elementary.

“I’d like you for a second to imagine walking into a spider web,” Ingle said. “The first thing you want to do is get it off of you. That’s the first thing my son wants to do when he puts on a shirt with a collar. He says it’s itchy and he wants to take it off."

Ingle said she's not against the dress code idea but that she would want a policy to include a provision for children with special needs to make them comfortable in their learning environments. She held up a yellow T-shirt and suggested that cotton T-shirts would help children be more comfortable for students if there were a standard code of dress.

"Please do not put my child in the equivalent of a spider web all day," Ingle said to the board.

Jennifer Toney of Newton was the second to speak during the forum time. She said she has concerns about the cost involved with such a clothing requirement. She said she believes the school district would be "inundated" with requests for financial assistance to buy the uniforms if a policy were adopted.

"Instead of Christmas presents, we're going to be buying clothes for my son, and that's not an exaggeration," Toney said.

The final forum participant, Frances Inscoe of Newton, said parents should have the responsibility to dress children for school.

"I don't see any problems that justify the need to take away that parental right," Inscoe said.

School board members Kim Cline, Jim Stockner, Mark Murphy and Loudermelt, and system Superintendent Barry Redmond said the standard code of dress in place at Newton-Conover Middle School is appropriate. Cline said she's been on the fence about the elementary school standard code of dress policy since its formation began.
"I think it's a great thing in the middle school, but I don't think it's a good thing necessarily in the elementary schools," she said.

Drum said he asked the board to look at the elementary school policy in depth. He also said that parents' concerns, such as students with special needs, would be taken into consideration.

"I feel there's so much to be offered to take away the distraction of what the students have on," Drum said. "I think that what we have in front of us is an opportunity to raise the bar in our educational environment."

Drum said he had not found a teacher or administrator who thought the elementary school policy was a bad idea.

"In fact, they were ready to institute it last semester," he said.

Loudermelt said that middle school leaders and staff members also supported a proposed dress code policy several years ago before it was adopted. He said the elementary school policy discussion began because of the middle school policy's success.

"This has been talked about, debated about, bandied about for several months now," Loudermelt said. "When you go to the middle school now, it looks different and feels different."

But Loudermelt and Murphy said they do not see evidence that a standard code of dress would solve anything at the elementary schools.

"Tonight is our first vote on this dress code," Loudermelt said. "A vote is imminent. Approval was never imminent."