Parents, students, as well as staff of the Oakdale Joint Unified School District will find a few timely changes in the way of the Student Conduct Code for the 2016-17 school year.
Student Conduct Code modifications were approved at the final board meeting of the 2015-16 year earlier this month. While few major changes were made, Dress Code as well as Attendance Expectations proved to have verbiage and/or guideline changes to keep more in line with present day.
“Conduct Code is reviewed by administration and staff every year,” Assistant Superintendent of Schools Larry Mendonca said. Mendonca oversees district Pupil Services and Facilities/Student Welfare and Attendance as well as School Safety.
“The District’s Pupil Services Department reviews for legal updates,” he continued. “Site administration and staff forward recommendations which are reviewed by the District for consistency and adherence of Board Policy. Changes are recommended to the Board for approval on an annually revised Conduct Code.”
Dress Code Guidelines received the most attention in the 2015-16 school year, most particularly in the way of hair color and student self-expression. As follow up to a commitment made to the community as well as the district, the guideline has been reviewed and modified.
The topic of hair color was brought to the board’s attention early in the 2015-16 school year, as then-OHS senior Cayley Elswick and her mother Chris formally addressed the board as she was faced with suspension for refusing to change her hair color.
At the time the issue was brought to the board, the decision was made to suspend the guideline until it could receive proper review and consideration.
“Our community expects our schools to set standards that promote a sage and orderly learning environment,” Mendonca said of the overall modifications to the Dress Code guideline. He additionally noted that as clothing styles change this, too, must be taken into consideration.
“A standard of grooming and apparel initially sets this tone,” he continued. “However, we certainly want to balance this with a student’s opportunity to express their interests. We review our dress code every few years to consider this balance of expression while maintaining an environment free from distractions or disruption.”
Gang-Related Clothing or Accessories is also reviewed and outlined in the Conduct Code. The Assistant Superintendent noted that each year the District has some incidents as a result of gang-related attire.
“We cannot deny that there are gang elements in town,” he said. “One of the first indicators of interest is wearing colors or monikers affiliated with a certain gang. As a result, our dress code addressing gang attire is strict. This is usually an initial opportunity to inform parents of this potential influence.”
While much of the 44-page Conduct Code remains untouched other than a word modification or two, Attendance Expectations received a half page addition under the heading of Method of Verification.
Mendonca shared that the addition was due not as a result of a truancy problem, but rather to simplify the expectations in the way of procedure for parents and guardians.
“It was suggested by one of our attendance secretaries that another publication available for reference may help remind our families to properly clear absences,” he stated of the addition. “Often, absences are designated as a truant due just to a lack of calling in or sending a note to verify the reason for the absence.”
Each OJUSD student is given an updated Student Conduct Code at the start of each school year. Included with the guidelines is a Parent/Student Conduct Code Letter Sign-Off Form for return to their respective campus. A copy for review can also be obtained on the District website: www.ojusd.org.