In a 4-2 vote, the Bryan County Board of Education shot down the uniform policy at their regular meeting on Thursday.
But not without plenty of debate.
"This is not about individuality, it’s a moral issue," said BoE Vice Chairman Frances Meeks, who along with board member Judy Crosby voted for the policy. BoE Chairman Eddie Warren and board members Billy Mock, Jeff Morton and Joe Pecenka voted against the policy. Mary Warnell was absent.
"This thing has torn this county up," Mock said. "It’d be nice to see all the children with the same clothes on. It’s pretty, but I don’t really think that’s part of education."
Jeff Morton said there is a "good distance between" the current dress code and a uniform policy and "I think there is a way to tweak the present dress code to something that will compromise and work for the administrators."
But Meeks listed examples of students wearing revealing clothing and shirts with gang or drug symbols on them. "I’m told by these principals that these are the situations that happen every day."
Pecenka said he is for the policy based on feedback from teachers and administrators, but the timing is wrong. He said he had a problem with approving it after school is out to be proactive come August due to costs.
"I would be very much in favor of a uniform policy if where we had either a grace period so that we can iron out some of these discrepancies with colors and options and things like that or one that started in the ‘08 or ‘09 school year," he said. "But to start the beginning of next year; I just don’t think it’s the right thing to do," Pecenka said.
Warren said he’d like to do another parent survey next fall which would specifically indicate "yes" or "no" on whether or not they want this policy.
In all, 20 people signed up to speak to the BoE about the proposed policy. Fifteen were against. RHMS Principal Helen Herndon, BCHS Principal Harold Roach, BCMS Principal Debbie Hamm, RHHS Principal Charles Spann, parent advisory member Hailey Beason and RH CVB Director Christy Hyers spoke in favor of the policy.
Herndon said each violation requires 20 minutes of correctional time by administration and teachers. Roach said that parents and teachers alike are ready for a decision. Hamm spoke about conferring with the RHMS resource officer to decipher if T-shirt logos were references to drug or gang activity.Spann said students are wearing clothing with holes in it and T-shirts with objectionable slogans on them. He said this happens daily and takes between three and four hours a day to deal with. Spann also said punishment doesn’t work.
"We send them to ISS, OSS, send them home, but they don’t give up," said Spann. "They’re willing to risk getting caught. The great socializers of children 30 ago years no longer socialize children. It’s MTV, it’s the media, it’s the clothing industry, it’s Britney Spears, Paris Hilton, we can go right on down the line of decadence."
But parents who opposed the policy told the BoE cited issues ranging from school colors not being permitted to the cost and timing of the measure.
"We should not punish the students adhering to the policy because of a small minority that is violating it," Michelle Adams said.
School board members said discussions on this topic will continue, but it absolutely will not be effective for the next school year.
In other business, the RHMS band was recognized for winning first place at the Southern Star Music Festival in Atlanta, in which they competed against bands from several states, and School Superintendent Dr. Sallie Brewer recognized retiring RHES Principal James Bing.