Tuesday, May 22, 2018
Education

Schools' neon punishment for dress code violations upsets some Pasco parents

NEW PORT RICHEY — Fashion don't. Shame shirt. Modern-day dunce cap.

Students at some Pasco County schools who have shown up in too-short shorts or sleeveless shirts have found themselves forced to wear neon "Out of Dress Code" T-shirts designed to compel compliance with the rules.

Some parents are not amused.

"Kids in middle school are at that point where they are building their confidence," said Scott Freitas, whose seventh-grade daughter Caitlin was confronted with the T-shirt at Seven Springs Middle School. "To make them wear something like that to embarrass them is just so wrong."

The concerns were not limited to Seven Springs Middle.

Amber Jandro thought so little of the practice that, after her daughter was presented the shirt at Paul R. Smith Middle, Jandro shot off a sharp email to superintendent Kurt Browning.

"This shirt is a form of bullying and is not acceptable," Jandro wrote to Browning, asking that the stock be destroyed. She said her daughter was laughed at and wound up in tears.

"There should be repercussions" for dress code violations, Jandro said in an interview. "There should just be proper repercussions."

She didn't get a response. But she did get action.

Browning forwarded Jandro's email to head of guidance counseling Molly Blair with a simple but pointed note.

"I think the practice of the T-shirt is not conducive to furthering our efforts to curb bullying," the superintendent wrote. "Thoughts???"

Blair agreed and added that she would follow up with all schools to make sure the "fashion don't" wasn't widespread.

Days later, Browning announced that he would put an end to the T-shirts. Schools should call parents to bring other clothes, he said, or alternately, provide apparel that doesn't make children stand out.

He stopped short of calling the T-shirts "bullying."

"He did think it did not reflect the culture of caring that we have been promoting this year," spokeswoman Linda Cobbe said.

Smith Middle principal Margie Fackelman, who inherited the T-shirt system when she took over last year, said she had planned to get rid of them regardless.

She had a stack of about 150 in her office, having collected them from administrators and teachers who had over time begun issuing them on their own.

"My philosophy is, we don't want to call attention to the mistakes that kids are making," said Fackelman, who received a few complaints. "If we want our kids to take pride in our school, we want them to make good choices. Part of that is not ostracizing them for poor choices."

The school has been collecting other replacement clothing that meets district rules for students to wear if they're out of compliance.

The neon T-shirts are likely on their way to the art room to become smocks.

• • •

Returning students to class without dealing with dress code violations is not viable, though, said Seven Springs Middle principal Chris Dunning, who ran Smith Middle until the spring.

"The rationale behind it is, if they go into the classroom out of code and the other kids see them, the next day we have multiple offenses. It's a domino effect," Dunning said, noting that only three to five students of nearly 1,400 end up in the T-shirt. "We have a rule on dress code. If we have a rule, we have to enforce it."

Dunning added that students also have two other options: changing into something that meets code, or going to in-school suspension, where they could do their work without being in the main school population.

Will Benninghoff, whose daughter Taylor is a Seven Springs Middle eighth-grader, called those false choices.

He said he couldn't get off work to bring a different outfit, and letting students sit out of class meant missing valuable instruction time. That left only the T-shirt, which he rejected.

"I support the school, but, come on, guys," he said. "Really, is that what you want to do? Humiliate a kid?"

He suggested the schools consider adopting uniforms instead.

Dunning agreed uniforms might make things easier for everyone. He said he had already begun exploring that option with district officials, to see if he could take it to the next step of a community survey.

There is another easy answer, too, though, he added: "It would be nice if they would just follow the rules."

Jeffrey S. Solochek can be reached at [email protected]

Comments
Hillsborough school district, teachers move closer to pay deal

Hillsborough school district, teachers move closer to pay deal

TAMPA — The Hillsborough County School District and its teachers’ union moved closer to resolving their salary dispute during Monday’s negotiating session — but stopped short of reaching an agreement.The teachers, who have spent this school year work...
Updated: 9 hours ago
Parents score victory in effort to make travel safer for Westchase students

Parents score victory in effort to make travel safer for Westchase students

TAMPA — Hillsborough County school leaders call it courtesy busing, but to Lauren Hawkins it’s more a matter of life and death.More students living close to their schools in the Westchase community used the Hillsborough school district’s courtesy bus...
Published: 05/21/18
Eckerd College hosts a royal celebration of its own

Eckerd College hosts a royal celebration of its own

A day after England’s royal wedding between Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, St. Petersburg hosted a royal celebration of its own. Among the estimated 500 graduates to receive an Eckerd College diploma at Sunday’s graduation ceremony held...
Published: 05/20/18
Updated: 05/21/18

Hooper: SEL lends a solution to the increasingly toxic world of kids

An incident recently arose between students at Jesuit High School and Academy of the Holy Names that involved allegations of cyberbullying, homophobia, misogyny and assault.It only involved a fraction of the students at two of Tampa’s most prestigiou...
Updated: 7 hours ago
At vigil, another school mourns: ‘It is hope in the face of tragedy that brings us together today.’

At vigil, another school mourns: ‘It is hope in the face of tragedy that brings us together today.’

SANTA FE, Texas - They gathered here by the dozens Friday evening, wearing their school colors, T-shirts that said "Texas Tough," while huddling under the shade of a gaggle of pine trees, not 11 hours after the first shots were fired.They came to pra...
Published: 05/19/18
‘I always felt it would eventually happen here’: A Santa Fe High School survivor’s reaction to the shooting

‘I always felt it would eventually happen here’: A Santa Fe High School survivor’s reaction to the shooting

Paige Curry tried to keep calm Friday morning as a gunman tore through her Santa Fe High School, eventually killing 10 people and injuring another 10. The 17-year-old watched as a girl nearby panicked. Curry, herself terrified, considered running out...
Published: 05/19/18
Class of 2018: Meet the valedictorians and salutatorians for Pinellas private high schools

Class of 2018: Meet the valedictorians and salutatorians for Pinellas private high schools

Before they could get away, we asked the top graduates at Pinellas County’s private schools to write a Twitter-length paragraph about what’s on their mind. We suggested they reflect on the past or the future, or talk about the people who helped them ...
Published: 05/18/18
Class of 2018: TBT’s Anita Morgan rises above abuse to thrive

Class of 2018: TBT’s Anita Morgan rises above abuse to thrive

TAMPA — For those who fear there is no hope, or help, or heart left in this world, there is the story of Anita Morgan.There are any number of life-wrenching places to begin …In the middle of the night, in the back of a police car, cruising over the b...
Published: 05/18/18
Class of 2018: TBT’s Anita Morgan rises above abuse to thrive

Class of 2018: TBT’s Anita Morgan rises above abuse to thrive

TAMPA — For those who fear there is no hope, or help, or heart left in this world, there is the story of Anita Morgan.There are any number of life-wrenching places to begin …In the middle of the night, in the back of a police car, cruising over the b...
Published: 05/17/18
Updated: 05/18/18
Florida teacher accused of drowning raccoons in class placed on leave

Florida teacher accused of drowning raccoons in class placed on leave

A Florida teacher was placed on administrative leave after school officials were told that he had students help him drown wild raccoons during class.A 14-second video published by CBS affiliate WKMG showed a group of students filling a tub of water u...
Published: 05/17/18