Results of Danville's dress-code survey full of dissatisfaction

Results of Danville's dress-code survey full of dissatisfaction

DANVILLE — It doesn't look like Danville schools officials are done discussing the district's controversial dress-code policy just yet.

School board members on Wednesday heard the results of a recent survey on the "uniform standard of dress," where most staff members, parents and students who responded said they aren't satisfied with it and don't believe it has had a positive impact on student behavior or achievement.

Board President Bill Dobbles said members will have to decide whether to keep the current policy or develop a new one. He added the decision should be made "sooner than later."

"Parents will already be making decisions about clothes for next year," he said. "They need to know what will be required."

The current policy requires K-12 students generally to wear collared shirts and solid-colored pants, skirts or shorts. They can't wear blue jeans and hooded sweatshirts. (Northeast Elementary Magnet School students are exempt from the district policy because they have their own uniform.)

The policy has drawn fire since it was implemented districtwide at the start of the 2014-15 school year, in an effort to improve school climate and allow students to focus on academics instead of clothing.

Since then, it has been revised to make it easier to enforce at the K-8 level and to give high school students more freedom.

Last year, a dress-code discussion resurfaced after Danville High officials asked the Ownership in Education Committee, which annually reviews and recommends changes to the student handbook, to consider allowing grade 9-12 students to wear hoodies and to simplify the code to reduce the amount of time they spend dealing with violations.

That prompted a few high school students to propose eliminating the current policy and offer their own suggestions to ensure that students dress appropriately. Several parents also voiced their opposition to the district's policy, noting the financial hardship for families, which has been an argument since the beginning.

The board in June approved several minor changes including allowing students to wear commercially produced tops representing their schools, a practice previously restricted to designated "spirit days." However, they said they wanted to hear from the majority of parents before making any significant changes.

On Wednesday, John Hart, assistant superintendent of elementary education, said 3,400 took the survey during parent-teacher conferences prior to spring break in March. The full results will be posted on the district's website today.

The results show, among other things:

— The majority of elementary and South View Upper Elementary School (grades 5-6) parents said they were satisfied with the current policy; however, the majority said they would like it to be less strict.

— The majority of staff at all levels and the Kenneth D. Bailey Academy said they weren't satisfied, and they didn't think the dress code had a positive impact on achievement or behavior.

— The vast majority of parents at North Ridge Middle School (grades 7-8), Danville High School and Bailey Academy said they weren't satisfied with the policy and believe it should be less strict. It wasn't surprising to board members that the majority of students felt the same and that only a small percentage believed it made them better students or helped them follow rules.

Board member Darlene Halloran, a staunch proponent, said the survey didn't tell the whole story because not every parent, student and staffer responded.

"That needs to be included in the report," Halloran said, adding she was contacted by parents who support the policy and didn't take the survey because "they're satisfied and not interested in" changing it.

Board member Lon Henderson said that many comments — hundreds of which were given — said they want "to do away with the dress code."

"I want the public to know there will always be a dress code," he said. "We're not going to let anybody wear just anything regardless of the survey."

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