Boyle schools will revamp dress code

Staff Writer

The Boyle County school district is still without a formal dress code, but members of the board hope to remedy that situation before school begins in August.

Superintendent Pam Rogers told the board at its regular monthly meeting Thursday night the existing dress code — specifically the portion dealing with emblems or apparel deemed offensive or disruptive to the educational process — is no longer in effect after consultation with several legal and advisory sources.

"We have been advised that we need to look at that language and see if we can be more specific," said Rogers. "What is at issue, specifically, is a ban on displaying the Confederate battle flag after the conclusion of a court case against the Madison County school system."

The meeting was covered by two Lexington television stations, but no parents attended to voice comments.

The district was forced to suspend its dress code after a case in which a student sued the Madison County school system. He had been suspended for wearing a t-shirt with the flag as its decoration. The student won the suit on appeal, and last month Boyle County, along with several other systems in the state, were notified by the Sons of Confederate Veterans that it would push for enforcement of the suit’s ruling.

"We can’t continue as we have been unless we have a history of disruptive behavior related to the Confederate flag," said Rogers, explaining that the suit forbids systems from banning symbols unless disruptive behavior results from their display.

Teacher Advisory Committee develops suggestions

Prior to the board meeting, the district’s Teacher Advisory Committee met to develop suggestions for a new dress code that would not violate the suit’s provisions.

Tracie Bottoms, a teacher at Boyle County High School who chairs the committee, told the board there was an increase in the number of students wearing or displaying the flag at Boyle Middle School immediately after the dress code was suspended, but no trouble had resulted.

Ed Sleet, the only African-American member of the board, expressed his concern that allowing students to display the Confederate flag opens the district to other problems.

"We can’t specifically say (students) can wear a Confederate flag while not allowing other emblems or logos," he said. "We’re about to open it up to anything and everything they want to wear, I’m afraid.

Board chairman Preston Miles said the system is being put in a delicate balancing position.

"It’s an issue we take seriously," he said. "We have to obey the legal dimension, but we have to be alert to offenses that are committed."

Paul Elwyn, communications director for the system, said one exception has been found to the Madison County ruling, but different circumstances applied.

"We can’t continue as we have been unless we have a history of disruption related to the Confederate flag," he said. "We’ve looked at a different court case in Florida where they had fights and disruption due to the display of the flag and were able to legally bar it."

Several options being explored

Rogers said several options are being explored, including school uniforms and completely banning all logos and emblems.

"I can tell you one of our schools explored the possibility of school uniforms and decided that isn’t feasible yet," she said. "We also have the option of uniformly banning all symbols and logos, but that would have to include all of them, even designer and manufacturer’s tags. It’s just one option to be explored."

For now, Elwyn told the board the system must wait until all advice that can be gathered, including legal opinions, is weighed.

"The Kentucky School Board Association is not in a position to make a recommendation yet," he said. "They have agreed to meet with us, but they are not in a position to tell us how to proceed."

And Miles said the board needs public input.

"We’d be pleased to hear other comments from the community," he said.

This story ran in the Advocate on June 20.

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