Starkville parents file appeal over new dress code

March 13, 2010 11:33:00 PM

Tim Pratt -

 

 

 

An attorney representing citizens opposed to a dress code in the Starkville School District filed an appeal Friday afternoon in Oktibbeha County Circuit Court. 

 

Attorney Daniel Tucker, of Booneville, filed the appeal, along with more than 270 affidavits signed by Starkville School District parents, students and community members. The group is seeking a temporary restraining order, a permanent injunction and other relief from the Starkville School District''s board of trustees and Superintendent Judy Couey.  

 

Along with Couey, board members Eddie Myles, Walter Taylor, Bill Weeks, Pickett Wilson and Keith Coble are named as defendants. 

 

Tucker on Saturday said he plans to contact SSD Attorney Dolton McAlpin and Oktibbeha County Circuit Court officials to set a date for a hearing.  

 

The appeal says, after the Feb. 2 board of trustees meeting, the board determined requiring uniforms would be considered a fee, which would require the school district to issue hardship waivers, and more than 60 percent of students in the SSD qualify for the free lunch program and would therefore qualify for a hardship waiver relating to the required uniforms.  

 

It also states the school board determined the district could not afford to clothe more than 60 percent of its student population and therefore could not impose a uniform requirement, so the SSD altered the uniform policy by changing the word "uniform" to "dress code." 

 

The appeal also alleges the board of trustees changed the wording from uniform to dress code to avoid financial obligation to those SSD students who would have qualified for a hardship waiver. Tucker echoed that opinion Saturday. 

 

"By changing the wording from ''uniform'' to ''dress code,'' they''re circumventing responsibility and passing it on to parents," Tucker said. "It''s still a uniform policy. You can color it whatever color you want to color it. It''s hard economic times. A lot of families out there with (multiple) kids in the school district aren''t going to be able to afford to buy all these new clothes." 

 

The board of trustees has stated safety concerns as one of its main reasons for adopting the dress code, but the appeal alleges the board''s decision came without "substantive evidence to show how a uniform dress code will improve safety and security in the Starkville School District." 

 

The appeal also says, among other things, the dress code would decrease students'' creativity and individuality, lessen their enthusiasm for learning and limit free speech. 

 

One of the major gripes among parents has been their feeling that the board of trustees didn''t take their opinions into consideration.  

 

"They''ve asked for public input on several different occasions," Tucker said.  

 

"A petition was signed by more than 750 people and presented to the board. They asked for two public showings at these meetings and an overwhelming majority of people stood up opposed to it. Why go through all of that if you are then going to ignore whatever you said you were going to do and consider the public''s input?"