polo lounge reno Hardy parents file lawsuit over new school dress code
A group of parents is suing the Hardy County Board of Education over a new middle school dress code they believe violates students’ Constitutional rights and puts an economic burden on poor families.
Tammy George, Richard and Rhonda Dolly and Jeff and Madelene Vance all parents of students at Moorefield Middle School filed a lawsuit Tuesday in Hardy County Circuit Court, asking a judge to order that the school cease enforcement of the new code, which administrators implemented earlier this month to improve discipline.
The policy, which requires all students to wear solid colored shirts and pants, has stirred controversy for weeks, with some parents saying it is an effort at “dictatorial control” and is creating a distraction for students.
“There’s stress a lot of stress,” said attorney David Judy, who filed the suit on behalf of the parents. During the first week the code was implemented, 34 students were punished for violating it, according to a report in Wednesday’s Moorefield Examiner.
“There have been students that have been taken out of the schools,” Judy said. “There’s just a lot of stress and a lot of confusion.”
It is not clear what disciplinary issues at the middle school prompted administrators to create a stricter dress code. Moorefield Middle School Principal Patrick McGregor, who is named in the suit, did not return phone calls on Wednesday. Hardy County Superintendent Barbara Whitecotton, also named in the suit, said she had “no comments at this time.”
The West Virginia Department of Education gives county school systems the option of implementing specific dress codes, including uniforms, but stipulates that an advisory committee of parents,
school employees and students should be assembled first to discuss it.
In the lawsuit, plaintiffs claim that last fall, school administrators intended to implement a policy requiring uniforms, but modified the plan after parents opposed it. Plaintiffs claim that an advisory committee was then “surreptitiously organized” by middle school administrators, with a small group of parents, teachers and students crafting and approving the revised policy without input from parents who opposed it.
Plaintiffs don’t believe the new dress code is an effective way to address discipline issues. The new policy also prohibits any clothing with logos larger than one inch.
“There has to be a demonstration that somehow wearing solid colors is going to contribute to better discipline,” said Judy, the plaintiff’s attorney. “No schools around here ever used a dress code as a discipline policy . It was originally going to be a uniform policy, which for a public school in Hardy County, West Virginia, was a little ridiculous. People here wear jeans and flannel shirts.”
The timing of the new policy has created hardship for families who can’t afford new wardrobes in the middle of the school year, according to the lawsuit.
When the new policy went into effect, “subsidy vouchers for school clothing had already been used for clothes for students for the school year to comply with the then existing dress policy,” the lawsuit states.
“Many of the clothes purchased now do not comply with the modified dress code/uniform policy, and indigent parents have little or no money with which to comply with the modified policy.”
A hearing date for the matter has not yet been set, but should be scheduled in the next few weeks, Judy said.
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