PRC school board updates and reviews policies

Published 1:00 pm Wednesday, March 6, 2013

The Pearl River County school board on Monday night revised and updated school policies concerning dress codes, and also revisited its policy banning drugs, tobacco and firearms on school property.

Pearl River County School District students are required to wear school uniforms and dress codes are strictly enforced.

After the votes on policy updates and changes, cargo style pants will be legal beginning in the 2013-14 school year. The pants are popular among young people because they can carry a lot of items in the large pockets, but under current school board policy are banned on Pearl River school district campuses. One school board member wanted to know why.

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Under the agenda item of considering the dress code for 2013-14, board member Jeremy Weir questioned Supt. Alan Lumpkin about a highlighted area, saying, “Is cargo style pants and shorts allowed?”

“It will be a change,” replied Lumpkin. “Right now they are not allowed.”

“That’s a great change,” Weir told Lumpkin.

Board member Twila Crabtree made the motion for the revisions and Weir seconded her motion. The revisions passed unanimously 5-0.

Board member Michelle Boyd asked why cargo pants were banned, and Lumpkin replied they were considered a “security issue” at one time but no more. During the discussion the fact was mentioned that school administrators were afraid the large pockets on the side of the cargo style pants were a place some students could hide contraband and bring it to school.

Lumpkin said now random searches are performed and the feeling is that the pants don’t constitute a security issue any more.

Asst. Supt. Nina Guthrie told the board that a committee looking into the issue on the pants said they had no problem with eliminating the ban, and campus security head Brandon Herrin also signed off on the policy change.

“They just felt the pants were not a security issue anymore with the school,” said Guthrie.

Replied Boyd, “I am glad of that, and I know parents will be happy. It is so hard and sometimes real expensive to find the right pants for a student. It will be easier for parents to find what they need.”

Cargo style pants are a style of casual trousers that have multiple large pockets, some of which are typically on the side of the upper legs. The trousers are popular with young men because they can carry a bottle of water, pop, their keys and iPod in multiple different pockets, all at the same time.

On another dress issue, the board voted to include in the dress code policy that “PRC school-sponsored team hoodies and club hoodies and appropriately colored hoodies for the school are allowed. . .” The revision applied to  slipover hoodies, and covered all students, not just students participating in sports or members of clubs.

Discussing the drug- and weapons-free school and workplace policies, Crabtree asked board attorney Jim Keith, if he had heard anything concerning a bill in the legislature which would allow teachers to carry weapons.

Keith, who is also attorney for the state school board association and keeps tabs on legislative proposals concerning schools, said the bill is still in the legislative mill and he did not know whether or not it will pass.

“School boards will have to deal with it and figure out a way to implement it if it passes,” he told the board, “but I am not sure I would want to be sitting across from an armed teacher if I were an administrator giving that teacher a bad evaluation.”

The board and audience laughed. Keith said Texas recently passed such a law.

Currently, only certified police officers employed by the school district in the security area, headed by Herrin, are allowed to carry firearms on campus. The officers are licensed and certified law enforcement officers. Herrin, like a chief, oversees a school force numbering four. Armed officers are present on all three Pearl River County School District campuses. They are also sworn in as Pearl River County deputy sheriffs.

All forms of tobacco  are banned from the campuses also: Cigarettes, dipping and chewing tobacco. And all illegal drugs are banned.

The board zipped through a 28-item agenda in about 45 minutes, and then went into an executive session to discuss legal matters.

The board then recessed to its next meeting on Monday at 1 p.m. in the old board meeting room at the board administrative offices just north of the Pearl River Central high school.

The board usually meets in the high school cafeteria.