Tue. Apr 23rd, 2024

The Tyrone Area School Board recently accepted the student handbooks for the high school and middle school level, with the understanding they will be asked to accept and/or approve an addendum regarding certain additions and revisions at both levels.
High School principal Rebecca Erb explained the changes revolve around new provisions for the student dress code and a new cell phone policy.
She said a board member had requested specific consequences for noncompliance with appearance guidelines be added to the handbook. Previously, the handbook addressed violations in a more general way by referring to general levels of discipline which are already outlined for students.
Under the new wording, “a student will be directed by a teacher or administrator to correct appearance so that he/she is compliant with appearance guidelines.”
The revision also goes on to state, “if a student refuses to comply” with the directive, it “will be considered insubordination” which is considered a level two offense and may result in a suspension from school.
Erb explained there are four levels of disciplinary actions in place at the schools, which deal with small matters at level one, more serious issues at level two and three and the most serious issues including fighting, drugs and matters calling for possible police intervention at level four.
She said in the past the dress code had not been specifically covered in the disciplinary levels and was treated as its own separate issue. The new provision “makes it clear how it would be handled by the administration if a student does not comply.”
Erb also explained the district was revising other aspects of its dress code after meeting with students and parents.
“Many, but not all, viewed it as overly restrictive,” said Erb. “We made some adjustments based on what they like, what is selling at retail, yet maintaining the decorum that they (the students) are in school. We wanted to strike a balance.”
She noted a couple of examples, such as the elimination of a safety concern regarding the wearing of flip-flops. Erb said it was difficult to distinguish the difference between flip-flops and sandals. She said the key now is the footwear “must cover the bottom of the foot.” Another change had to do with the length of girl’s shorts and skirts. Those changes will allow for shorter lengths. The changes were made in part because of input from students about the lack of availability of certain length of shorts based on the school’s previous standard and what Erb described as a new popularity for girl’s skirts being marketed at the retail level.
The school board accepted the high school handbook with the dress code revisions with the exception of the noncompliance wording. The board also accepted the middle school handbook without the dress code or noncompliance wording.
Erb explained the middle school handbooks go to press with an outside printing firm several months before the new school year which did not allow the changes to be included. At the high school level the handbooks are printed at the school much later in the summer, which allowed for most of the dress code changes to appear in it as accepted by the board on Aug. 10.
Erb explained the board is not required to approve the handbook regarding non-policy issues, but members are asked to “accept” it by their vote.
However, she did indicate one other issue will require school board approval, since it is a change in policy. The district did not have a specific cell phone policy. It has decided to add one under a section governing electronic devices.
Erb said the district is using a draft policy from the Pennsylvania School Board Association to create its policy. The new policy will allow students to carry cell phones with certain stipulations. Previously, the devices were not permitted at all.
Under the proposed policy, the cell phone must remain off throughout the school day. Erb said the cell phones are for the convenience of students who may need to contact parents or to make arrangements for transportation. However, such calls would not be allowed during the school day, only before or after it.
“It’s unrealistic to believe we can prevent them from having them since they are very small,” said Erb.
The proposed policy does allow for the cell phones to be turned on in “the silent vibrator mode” to allow students to receive a call during a family illness situation or for other health, safety and emergency reasons. The exceptions must be approved in advance by the building principal. An exception can also be made for a student’s individualized education program.
Erb was not sure when the school board would take up the dress code disciplinary issue or the new cell phone policy. School starts tomorrow in the district and the board has a special meeting scheduled on Aug. 31. Prior to the special meeting at 7 p.m., the school board’s regulatory activities committee will meet in an open session at 6 p.m. to discuss certain policy issues. However, the board would not be allowed to vote on policy issues or a non-policy handbook addendum during a committee meeting. Based on previous information from the Aug. 10 meeting agenda, it was not clear if either the dress code or cell phone policy was among the issues scheduled to be discussed at the committee meeting.
The district has also decided to cancel its Sept. 7 work session and will hold its regular meeting on Sept. 14 at 7 p.m.

By Rick