Rep. Antonio Parkinson said the dress code and code of conduct were inspired by parents themselves — as well as educators and principals — who expressed concern over the attire and behavior of visitors at some Tennessee schools. Parkinson told Yahoo Lifestyle the policy would apply to anyone steps foot on a school campus — and that includes students and faculty, who are already held to a high standard. He said he expects anyone stepping on school campuses to be held to that same standard.
Parksinson also called the dress code and code of conduct a precautionary measure against on-campus fighting and visitors showing up under the influence and dressed inappropriately. “I had one elementary school principal tell me about a parent coming to pick up their child with lingerie on and body parts hanging out,” he told Yahoo Lifestyle. He said another parent came to school smelling like marijuana — and leaving the whole office reeking of the odor.
He also recounted stories of parents fighting with one another on campus — and “cursing principals out.” Parksinson told Memphis’s WHBG that the misconduct can even create situations for children to be bullied. “We want to protect our children, but we also want to protect our staff,” he said. “And we want to protect the integrity of the institution.”
The lawmaker will not propose a one-size-fits-all policy, though — in fact, he doesn’t want to dictate the specifics of the policy at all. If the bill passes, the onus will be on each school district to implement its own code of conduct for school visitors — then to post the code at every school entrance and hand it out to parents at the beginning of each school year.
“We’re not trying to tell anyone how they should dress in thier lives,” he said, “But what we are saying is, ‘Here’s our minimum of what your appearance should be,’ just like you’d expect in a job interview.” But the representative did tell WHBG, “I visualize clothes that are not sexually suggestive. Not wearing things that might encourage or suggest gang activity.”
The response from community members on Parksinson’s Facebook page has been mixed. Some commented in support of the proposed bill. “About time!” one wrote. “A needed policy!” another said.
But at least one parent feels a dress code should be “the school’s last concern,” citing bullying and behavioral concerns among students, and asking, “How do they have time to police the dress code when they don’t have time to investigate actual issues?” Another said the bill is “about disrespecting parents in front of their children.”
Parksinson was quick to respond to concerned parents, assuring them that teachers also have an enforced dress code, and that school uniforms for students will not be part of the proposed policy.
The proposal is expected to be introduced in as little as two weeks.
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