CONYERS -- Students won't be required to wear uniforms to school next year, but there will be a change in the dress code.
After researching the possibility of implementing a uniform policy at Rockdale County Public Schools, system officials have decided to add more detailed language to the dress and grooming rule in the student behavior code and add more specific dispositions for student offenses.
"We want to change behavior and intervene," said RCPS Superintendent Samuel King. "We are having issues with dress, especially at the high school level."
Students are not to dress to distract the attention of other students or cause disruption or interference with the operations of the school, according to the current policy. They also are not allowed to wear clothing with obscene pictures or symbols that depict illegal drugs, alcoholic beverages or contraband, as well as inflammatory, provocative, lewd, profane or suggestive language or symbols.
The updated policy also prohibits head coverings and wallet chains. Garrett Brundage, executive director of Support Services at RCPS, said head coverings are addressed on a case-by-case basis, so students wearing coverings for religious purposes will still be allowed to do so.
The current policy also states that students cannot dress in an immodest way or in extreme fashion, including wearing see-through clothing, Spandex pants or skirts, tank tops, extremely baggy pants, skirts and shorts above the knee, bedroom slippers, pajamas, low-cut shirts, and unclean clothes.
The updated code says halter tops and leggings or jeggings without a skirt or shirt that reaches the knee are not permitted. It also says pants must be worn at waist level, in addition to the current rule that shirts must not conceal baggy pants and the waist must be visible at all times, thus removing the need for the rule that all shirts must be tucked in, Brundage said.
King said the restrictions better hold students accountable and guide staff.
"I feel these revisions give school-level administration the leverage they need to enforce this code," he said. "We feel it's going to allow administration leverage to clarify and follow through with students who do not comply."
Students who break the rule now will face up to five offenses, rather than the previous disposition of a permissible one- to 10-day suspension.
The updated rule provides the following recommended dispositions:
* First offense: Student warning and parent contact
* Second offense: Automatic two-day in-school suspension, mandatory parent contact and mandatory behavior contract
* Third offense: Automatic two-day out-of-school suspension, mandatory parent conference and review of the behavior contract
* Fourth offense: Automatic three-day out-of-school suspension, mandatory parent conferences or possible alternative placement
* Fifth offense: Referral to student disciplinary hearing for chronic behavior violations
"The consequences give us the outcome we all want," King said, adding that the administration wanted to be able to have some communication with the student and parent for multiple consequences.
King said system officials will continue to monitor schools, and school councils and other groups will continue to discuss dress rules.