Flagler Schools implemented a uniform-type dress code policy starting in the 2012-2013 school year. There was an immediate effect on disciplinary referrals: At FPC, for example, the number jumped from 468 the previous year to more than 1,571, with 75% of them dress-code related.
"I don’t necessarily think that our parents need to be going out and getting all these clothes and shirts when the kids have clothes that are appropriate."
— CHERYL MASSARO, School Board member
The district has since loosened its dress code, but it can still account for a large number of disciplinary incidents, and School Board member Cheryl Massaro wants the district to rework it so that it's both more enforceable and less likely to lead to student referrals.
"I was talking to the dean over at FPC: He figures he’s going to have 1,000 referrals the first week of school for dress code, because he’s enforcing it," Massaro said at an Aug. 3 School Board workshop. "A thousand referrals, the first week. After five referrals, that sixth referral usually is an out-of-school suspension."
Massaro said she's been serving on the district's Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports team, which is looking for ways to reduce suspensions.
"We’ve got to look at that and figure out how to cut those back, and I think that’s one place to start," she said. "I would like to see it totally revamped before the next school year, 2022-2023: Give it back to the executive council and let the team work on how to have a proper dress code, but not with all the regulations with colors."
Students, depending on their grade level, have different sets of color options available for shirts: High schoolers have the most leeway and can wear any solid color, plaid or striped pattern as long as it's collared and meets fabric requirements, while elementary and middle schoolers must wear solid colors and have more limited palettes to choose from.
Some of the rules seem arbitrary: For instance, "gold" polos are allowed, but yellow ones aren't. But is it worth giving a student a referral because their polo shirt is more a lemon-yellow than a gold-yellow?
Massaro said she'd asked district staff about the color regulations.
"I said, 'What do we have against yellow and purple polo shirts?'" she said. "And the explanation made sense after they explained it — that’s because none of our feeders schools have yellow or purple." The color options are selected from school colors.
"Polo shirts are nice, but I don’t necessarily think that our parents need to be going out and getting all these clothes and shirts when the kids have clothes that are appropriate," Massaro said. "But there needs to be some type of code enforcement."
Board member Colleen Conklin said she'd be interested in having that discussion. Board Chairman Trevor Tucker asked district staff to place the topic on an agenda for a future School Board workshop.