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School Board confronted by angry parents

Angry parents speak out at Sept., 17 school board meeting.

Angry parents speak out at Sept., 17 school board meeting.

Angry parents sound off about school uniforms, bus schedules

Dozens of people filled the tiny cafeteria and hallway at Colleton’s Annex Building last Tuesday, each demanding to be heard concerning their problems with changes in the district’s proposed school uniform policy. The twist in this matter came from the school board, who appeared to be unaware that the proposed changes were so hotly contested by parents and students.

“All of these proposed changes are extreme,” school board Member Paul Haase said after the meeting. According to him, the list of changes will be “revised” and brought back to the school board for more consideration. No vote is expected to happen until the November meeting, he said. The school board meets on the second and third Tuesday of each month.

The laundry list of proposed changes include: reducing the size of hair bows, no logos that are larger than 1.25 inches in diameter, allowing only white shoelaces (no neon colors), no croc-style shoes or flip-flops; and no hooded jackets. “On the third day of school at Colleton County High, my daughter wears the color closest to what you expect, and she is pulled from her class and put in a holding area because her shirt is ‘off color,’” an angry Neal Way told the school board. Way, 47, says he is a business owner and works to make sure his daughter is always dressed appropriately and within the school’s uniform guidelines.

 

“I send my daughter to school for an education,” he said, “and not to be pulled from class over something this trivial. Thirty to 40 students that morning were also pulled out of their classes … we are watching Colleton County go down by the day, and we have to educate our children to bring our community back! This is unacceptable.”

 

Way also drew applause from the crowd when he gave the school board a tip on how to run the schools like a business: “You want a uniform policy? Make it uniform!” he said. “I’ll give you $10 for a shirt instead of me driving to Charleston and giving it to somebody there. Then, you have no excuse in saying these children don’t fit the policy.”

 

Paul Haase, School Board Member

Paul Haase, School Board Member

According to Haase, the controversy began in August, when Haase himself asked Superintendent Leila Williams to revise the uniform policy. “I wanted kids to be allowed to wear an emblem on their shirt, if it was less than the size of a quarter,” said Haase. “As a parent, I know how frustrating it is to look for uniforms without any emblems on them at all, and I know the value of paying an extra $1 or $2 for a better quality shirt that will last the whole year.”

 

“Then, we walked into the school board meeting last week and we had a whole list of changes. That was unexpected,” he said. “This was not known to us.”

 

As each angry parent and student spoke to the board last week, their message was similar: most of the proposed uniform changes are silly, and don’t change the uniform after the start of the school year when the clothes have already been bought. One parent even told the school board that she is now behind on her mortgage because she has three children in the public school system, and she had to repurchase their clothes. Some said the policy changes remove growth and personality development from their children. Other parents said clothing changes are a wasted effort if the goal is to keep colors and styles separate from what any gang members may be wearing or doing. “I’m against uniforms at all, but I feel the uniforms are not the problem,” Michelle Holbrook told the board. “Those who are going to group together, will group together. Why can’t we take this effort and time and tax-dollars and put it into something that really matters. You are punishing the good kids.”

 

IMG950928The board took no vote on this matter, and did not discuss it. They will again review this policy and the proposed changes at their October meeting before casting a vote in November. All items up for vote must be on the board’s agenda “as is” for a minimum of one month before votes can be cast, according to Haase.

 

In other school board news:

 

The school district is still dealing with a massive school bus driver shortage, with 88 bus routes, and with 12 drivers’ positions still left to fill.

 

Parents at last week’s school board meeting angrily told the board that this strike is unacceptable and that their children are not being safely taken care of on the buses. “The bus is running at different times every day for two weeks now,” Chantelle Fields told the board. Fields is the parent of a child at Hendersonville Elementary School. “My child is not getting to school until after 9 a.m. She is missing all of her valuable instructional time because math is her first class in the morning. And the department had the audacity to send a letter home to me stating, ‘it’s the parents’ responsibility to get the children to the bus stop on time!’ How can we do that when we don’t know what time they will be there?”

 

Other parents also complained about the bus system, saying their children are not getting home from school until after 6 p.m.

 

The board did not comment on this issue at the meeting.

 

Heather Walters (1389 Posts)