Transgender, dress code policies adopted

Posted:  Wednesday, January 9, 2019 - 8:15am

The Wiscasset School Committee adopted policies addressing student dress and transgender students Tuesday night.

Only three of the five committee members were present in the high school library. Absent due to the ice storm were members Desiree Bailey and Indriani Demers.

Prior to the policies’ adoption, Superintendent of Schools Terry Wood stressed these were two separate policies. She noted the transgender policy wasn’t currently state mandated, although recommended by the law firm of Drummond Woodson, the school department’s legal counsel.

She said a request for the policy was brought to the school administration this past June under the tenure of the previous superintendent.

As stated within the opening statement of the transgender policy:

The school department will strive to: 1) foster a learning environment that is safe, affirming, and free from discrimination, harassment and bullying for all students; and 2) assist in the educational and social integration and development of transgender students in our schools.

The dress code policy encourages students “to use sound judgment and reflect respect for themselves and others in dress and grooming, while keeping with the goals of the school department to provide a safe, healthy and non-discriminatory environment for education of students…”

Among the student dress code restrictions are: Clothing that contains messages or symbols that violate the Wiscasset School Committee’s discrimination/harassment policies; any type of attire which attracts undue attention to the wearer or is in poor taste that could cause disturbances in the school; clothing that depicts or advertises drugs, alcoholic beverages, tobacco products, or inappropriate language, violence, vulgarity, gang-oriented behavior, sexual innuendoes, offensive messages, or anti-school messages, or inappropriately exposes body parts, including the midriff, or undergarments.

Under the policy, shorts, skirts and dresses should be no shorter than mid-thigh; baggy clothing and long coats that could present a safety risk to the student or could conceal weapons or contraband; and clothing such as hats, caps, bandanas, visors, sunglasses, or headdress may not be worn unless needed for health or safety purposes or cultural/religious requirements.

The policy notes the principal(s) may give exceptions to the dress code for special occasions. Students who violate the dress code will receive a warning and may be sent home depending on the infraction and could face suspension for repeated violations of the policy, it states.

Chairman Michael Dunn and members Jason Putnam and Michelle Blagdon voted in favor of the policies. Wood said summaries of both will be published online.

Wood noted she and the school finance director recently met with the town manager, treasurer and a selectman to discuss budget concerns including use of the school department’s unassigned fund balance of $1,056,637. She anticipated having a “very rough” outline of the school department’s 2019-20 budget by the next meeting.

The department received high marks from the state on its SREP Program. The state has delayed the release of its annual School Report Card, said Wood. And  new hires included O’Neil LaPlante and Becky Schafer as elementary school educational technician III’s.