23 June 2022
Durham, N.C. — The Durham Public Schools Board of Education is expected to vote on a new dress code policy Thursday evening.
Board members said the proposed changes would create a more inclusive and equitable environment.
Under the proposed new code, some rules would remain the same. Students still cannot wear clothing with profanity or violence. New rules could allow certain clothing, such as hats and halter tops.
In last week’s presentation, board members acknowledged the current code negatively affects female students more than males.
Emily Byrd’s son attends the Durham School of the Arts. She’s in favor of proposed changes to Durham Public Schools’ dress code.
“I want to applaud the conscious effort that they’re making,” Byrd said. “There’s so many more distractions in today’s world than whether or not somebody’s wearing spaghetti straps.”
The new code would instruct staff to discuss any violations with another adult present, and prohibit speaking about that violation in front of other students.
School Board Chair Bettina Umstead said that change could cut down on bullying.
“I think one of the things that we want to prioritize in this dress code is to have it not so that students will be called out for what they were wearing, but to be more inclusive of all the headgear and attire that our students would want to wear,” Umstead said.
Byrd agrees that a private conversation is the best way to deal with a dress code violation.
“There’s a lot of shame that can happen when something like that happens, especially if a child is wearing all they have to wear,” Byrd said. “We’ve really got to look at how we can serve the child as a whole, and I see this as a gentler, more compassionate effort on the school’s part. I’m appreciative of that.”
Another parent, Danielle Caldwell, appreciates the proposed changes.
“Children should not be made to feel ‘othered,'” Caldwell said.
Caldwell said everyone’s culture should be respected at school.
“We want children to be free to learn, and we don’t want their attire to determine if they feel free to explore academically,” Caldwell said.
Umstead said the new code has students at the center.
“We went through the dress code using a student advisory committee, as well as an advisory committee of principals to really get a sense of what is working and what doesn’t work,” Umstead said.
The proposal is expected to pass Thursday when the school board members vote. The meeting begins at 6:30 p.m.