Bedford County school superintendent Dr. Ray Butrum invited discussion of issues that seem to be prevalent in schools -- such as dress code and electronic device policies -- at a school board study session late last month. The board's next meeting is April 19.
"It's no secret that every time I talk to a group of kids -- and not in a negative way -- they always, 100 percent of the time, brought up some issue about dress code," Butrum said.
According to Butrum, students were not necessarily indicating that they didn't like the dress code, but they had questions about the origin and intent of the policy.
The policy, which was last revised in June 2009, presents instructional staff with the challenge of day-to-day enforcement.
"Once we identify a student that needs to tuck in their shirt, but then get out of sight and un-tuck it again -- how much instructional time does it take to pull them out of class because they won't adhere to dress code?" Butrum said.
"Right now, the biggest thing we are experiencing with this is a negative backlash from principals and teachers feeling like they are not able to monitor [dress code] properly."
As school test scores increasingly impact teacher evaluations, teachers have a concern that monitoring dress code reduces their effective instructional time.
Butrum asked the board to allow each school the opportunity to analyze and review how the dress code may be modified, but "within the realm of the policy that is currently being operated under."
"If they can justify [changes] they also need to produce a plan on how they are going to implement and enforce it," Butrum said in a phone interview after the meeting.
"I'm fine with letting the principals or whoever tweak [the policy] and make suggestions, but I do think that appropriate dress is a valid part of our educational process," said board member Ron Adcock.
Amy Martin agreed, saying part of the intent of the dress code is, "to instill respect for themselves and others."
"You set an example by the way you look."
Similarly, language revamping the policy regarding use of personal electronic devices in school was presented to the board for review. Current policy prohibits the use or visible possession of cell phones while on campus.
The suggested policy revisions specifically name cameras, tablet, laptop and notebook computers, eReaders, and devices to play recorded music. If passed at the April board meeting, students will be allowed to use personal communication devices for reasonable communication purposes before school and after dismissal.
The revisions also address photos and videos with, "The taking of photos or the recording of videos whether by cell phone or any other device in places where privacy is a reasonable expectation is strictly prohibited."
State law now prohibits social promotion of students in the third grade.
"You may not pass a third grader if they are not ready to go to fourth grade, unless you have provided intervention services," Butrum said.
The suggested policy change adds, "...no student enrolled in the third grade shall be promoted unless the student has shown a basic understanding of curriculum and ability to perform the skills required in the subject of reading as demonstrated by the students grades or standardized test results..."
"The superintendent shall report at least annually, on any intervention programs available to students in the third grade and recommend any new programs or the modification of any existing programs to better serve these students."
As the school year nears an end, printing orders for agendas and student handbooks must be issued in the coming months, prompting review and approval of certain board policies.
The board agreed to vote on a handful of policy changes at the board's next regular meeting.