Orange County Board of Education sends controversial dress code change back to committee

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Orange County Board of Education sends controversial dress code change back to committee

It's back to the drawing board for a dress code policy that has had parents, teachers, administrators, and concerned citizens up in arms.

On Monday night, the Orange County School Board was slated to take its final vote on a dress code policy that has been swirling in controversy for more than seven months.

In a series of public comments, many residents spoke out on both sides of the issue of whether clothing bearing the Confederate flag has a place inside a classroom.

Two weeks ago, the school board voted to revise the dress code policy.

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There was some discussion and concern over certain wording in the revision.

It read, "Students are not to wear clothing, buttons, patches, jewelry, or any other items with words, phrases, symbols, pictures or signs that are indecent, profane, or racially intimidating that create a reasonable forecast of disruption."

At issue was the last part of that sentence and concern that it was too vague, so they scratched it out and it seemed certain the policy would pass this week.

It did not.

In a surprising turn, they voted 4 to 3 to instead send the draft back to policy committee. Board member Donna Coffey said she was concerned that the draft didn't do enough to protect all students. She mentioned LGBTQ students as an example.



Board member Brenda Stephens agreed but stressed they should pass the policy anyway to have something in place and then work toward another revision. In the end, that was out voted.

Many in the crowd were not happy that nothing was voted in and called the board members cowards.

The issue will go back to committee and could be back before the board in August.

Other agenda items before the board that also stirred up controversy Monday night were proposals that would limit the amount of public comment.

One proposal would cut back regular school board meetings, which include public comment, from twice a month to once a month. The other proposal would cap public comment time to 30 minutes.

With each speaker getting three minutes to speak, Board Member Mathew Roberts said this concerned him.

"To only think that we're going to have one meeting month where 10 people can speak," said Roberts.

Other changes to public comment would also limit the number of speakers. For example the proposal asks that if 10 people are there speak on the same issue and have the same position, that they select a delegate to speak for the group.

The proposal to change the number of meetings passed its first reading, but the second proposal on time limits and the number of speakers, was sent back to the policy committee.

Many in the crowd thought the proposals to change public comment is in retaliation to the number of people who came out to speak about the dress code policy and the Confederate flag.

The board's chair, Dr. Stephen Halkiotis said that is not the case. He said many school boards in surrounding counties don't meet as many times as they do and these changes have long been discussed.

Related Topics:
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