The Sidewalks of White Plains


School Board keeps specific dress code standard in revised Code of Conduct.

Board decides to respect free speech in distributing literature/flyers, defines what is mandatory to report to authorities if you know about it.

Third Draft available June 18, Board of Education to vote on Code June 25.

Special to WPCNR from Michele Schoenfeld.


CityLine: June 4, 2001 -- Education House

Michelle Schoenfeld, Secretary to the Board of Education and spokesperson for the White Plains City School District told WPCNR that the Board Work Session on the state-mandated Code of Conduct went fine Monday evening, with the issue of the school dress standards forbidding specific types of clothing being adapted.

The draft will be considered one more time on June 18 then voted upon June 25 by the Board of Education in order to file the new Code of Conduct with the New York State Department of Education to comply with the state Safe Schools Against Violence in Education Act by July 1.

Thomas Eaton, House Administrator at White Plains High School and other administrators made a strong case Monday evening that the high school needed to state in clear, descriptive terms specific examples of kinds of "forbidden styles" to enforce proper dress in the schools, otherwise the simple good taste standard was ambiguous. The Board of Education decided in favor of this argument, going to the extent of inserting specific language against it as follows:

"Students...shall not wear suggestive and revealing garments such as, but not limited to, tank tops, tube tops, net tops, halter tops, spaghetti straps, plunging necklines (front/or back), midriff tops, see-through garments, nor shorts, skirts, and dresses of inappropriate length." The new language inserted by the Board as a result of Monday's meeting were the key words: "suggestive and revealing."

The Board amended the broad prohibition under the Dress Code as follows:
It now reads:

"Student should...Not wear items that are vulgar, obscene, libelous, or denigrate others." This sentence previously continued, reading "on account of race, color, religion, creed, national origin, gender, sexual orientation or disability." These words beginning with "on account..." were removed from the Code of Conduct Dress Code.

On the issue of free speech regarding distribution on page 9 of the second draft of the Code of Conduct, the Board moved to insert words protecting freedom of speech as follows.

(Students) must not engage in any conduct that is disruptive or disorderly.
Examples include, but are not limited to:...

"...Distributing or posting of any written material, pamphlets, or posters without the prior written approval of the Superintendent (or designee) In making these decisions the superintendent or designee) will give due consideration to the student's right of free speech and expression." The sentence beginning "In making" was added.

Required Reporting of Violations Circumstances refined:

The Board of Education got more specific in the kinds of conduct violations in the Students' and Parents'/Visitors' section that must be reported by specifying violent or criminal acts in school or a school function. The text of the code now demands reporting of such acts, as follows:

"All students who witness what they know to be a violent or criminal act or who are aware of a potentially violent or criminal act -- in school or at a school function -- are expected to promptly report the matter to an adult. The district will hold the identity of the reporter in confidence to the maximum extent possible."

A similar paragraph requires the same "must report" standard to parents and visitors who "witness" a violent and criminal act.

Parent notifications tightened up:

Ms. Schoenfeld reports the District created a new, specific Section (B) requiring all violations of the Code of Conduct be reported to parents, promptly, inserting the following:

"B. Parental Communication:

In developing the Code of Conduct, the importance of strong communication between the school and the home was emphasized. It will be stressed to school officials that they inform parents in a timely fashion about their children's violations of the Code (of Conduct)."

The problem of reporting school bus shenanigans was further addressed specifically, requiring School Bus Drivers to report such behavior and further requiring parents to be notified, and in the event of suspension from transportation, the parent(s) will be responsible for "seeing the child gets to and from school safely."

A new policy statement on suspension from athletics, social or extracurricular activities, field trips and computers also requires parents will all notified of penalties imposed on students. Principals will also notify parents of in-school suspensions, and give parents the opportunity for an "informal conference" to discuss the conduct and the penalty.

In discussion of suspensions, parents are now given "the right" "to ask questions under complaining witnesses under such procedures as established by the principal."

Student searches defined explicitly:

Two paragraphs regarding student searches were amended. One, defining requests for searches now allows school officials to ask only if a student "possesses the suspected items" or will voluntarily consent to the search. The words "suspected items" replaced the former wording, "physical evidence, that he/she violated the law or the district Code of Conduct, or ask the student to voluntarily consent to the search."

The paragraph outlawing strip searches was amended to exclude a request for footwear removal as constituting a strip search.

Copies of the complete redraft of the new Code of Conduct will be available June 18, according to Ms. Schoenfeld.

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