With some reluctance, the Allentown School District plans to loosen the belt on its one-year-old mandatory dress code policy for students-- but only by a colorful notch or two.
The district also intends to prohibit ASD students and employees from having or using “vapor products” – defined as atomizers or other devices that vaporize a flavored solution, which may or may not contain nicotine.
“Such products include, but are not limited to, electronic cigarettes or e-cigarettes, person vaporizers and electronic nicotine delivery systems,” according to ASD’s draft policy.
“We’re just keeping up with the times,” said David Wildonger, ASD’s chief operations officer, who added vapor products are hitting the market across the country.
District Superintendent C. Russell Mayo added there isn’t an issue with vapor products in his district and he doesn’t want it to become one. “We want to get ahead of it.”
The proposed ban, which also would apply to members of the public attending athletic and other events held by the school district, will be voted on at the school board’s next meeting at 7:30 p.m. June 26.
The dress code change does not require school board approval.
Both issues were discussed during a series of three board committee-of-a-whole meetings Thursday night.
During the meetings, Frank Nickischer, a retiring teacher who is president pro tem of Allentown Education Association, the teachers union, complained to the school board that ASD’s classrooms and schools “are dangerous – with assaults, vulgarity and disrespect. I pray we don’t face a future catastrophe.”
Dr. Tina Belardi, the district’s chief academic officer, explained the administration intends to make changes to the student uniform policy that involve belts, shoes, sweaters and cold-weather layering:
Children in kindergarten through second grades no longer will be required to wear belts, but belts still must be worn by those in third grade and above.
Pants for those younger students often have elastic waists and no belt loops, said Belardi. She added the current requirement “poses a problem for those little fingers that can’t manipulate the belt buckle quickly enough.”
In addition to white, black and brown shoes, another change will allow any combination of a school’s colors to be incorporated into shoes, said Belardi.
At Allen High School for example, the school’s colors are yellow and blue. Next fall, Allen students will be permitted to wear shoes containing any combination of brown, black, white, tan (also new), royal blue and yellow.
At Dieruff High, where the school colors are blue and gray, students will be allowed any combination of brown, black, white, tan, gray or navy blue.
Belardi said more color options also will be allowed for sweaters, but sweaters with zippers will not be allowed “to curtail the wearing of outer garments during school.”
At the elementary school level, for example, students will be allowed to wear tan, brown and light blue sweaters, in addition to navy, black, gray or white -- the previously allowed colors.
Despite the ban on zippered sweaters, the fourth change allows students to do cold-weather layering, such as thermal undershirts and coats, as long as it is consistent with “the palette of colors” allowed at each grade level or school.
Belardi said parents will be informed of the changes and the district’s code of conduct will be updated to reflect them.
In 2012, said Belardi, surveys showed 85 percent of parents wanted school uniforms. She said the policy has helped develop school pride among students.
Board member Scott Armstrong declared that going from a no-uniform district to a uniform district in one year has been a huge success.
“The community really appreciates it, the parents appreciate it and, surprisingly, the students do.”
Armstrong called the recommendations “common sense” and predicted there will be fewer infractions every year. “We’re just tweaking the shoe thing.”
Armstrong said there were a lot of complaints from parents that their children could not get warm enough in classrooms this winter.
Too many choices?