Hernando Schools ditch new dress code
Hernando County parents who are preparing to buy school uniforms to comply with a new dress code can put away their credit cards.
With less than three weeks until the start of classes, the school board abruptly withdrew its proposed changes to the code Tuesday, citing parent complaints and at least one threatened lawsuit.
Many of Hernando's elementary schools have for years required a khakis-and-polo-shirt sort of uniform. But the new policy would have extended it to middle schools and even Springstead High.
That drew a predictable chorus of adolescent protests when it was first announced last spring. And parents complained about the inconsistencies between schools.
Even with the new policy, schools could march to their own drummer, said board member Pat Fagan.
Jean shorts were permitted in one place but forbidden in another, he said. And children who switched schools could be forced to change their color palate; while any color shirt was fine at Brooksville Elementary, those at Chocachatti Elementary were limited to navy, white, burgundy or forest green. Make that hunter green at two other schools.
With two out of five board members on vacation Tuesday, Fagan's support for the new policy was critical. And it wasn't there.
"I think there could have been better buy-in (from parents) if we did not wait until the 29th of July to make a decision," he told the board. "You've got people who are for it, and people who are against it."
Board attorney J. Paul Carland said he had advised the district to find some research to back up the dress code changes, after fielding at least one call from a county resident who said he'd sue to fight them.
"The basic form we were following was the Polk County model, which has been tested in court and survived," Carland said.
For his part, Superintendent Wayne Alexander vowed to bring a fully-researched, K-12 dress code back to the board for next year. In the meantime, existing dress codes still apply, he said, reading the district code from beginning to end for the television audience.
He told parents who have already purchased new clothes in anticipation of the new code that they're on safe ground.
"It's dressing for success," Alexander said.
For more details, read tomorrow's St. Petersburg Times or visit Tampabay.com.
-- Tom Marshall, Times staff writer
[Ford Poe tries on pants at ABC School Uniforms with assistance from Debbie Foster, owner, and his grandmother Lori Langley. Poe is in the fifth grade at Deltona Elementary. Ron Thompson, Times files]