No Bull, No Fluff, No Smudges
Your news source for
Flagler, Florida and Beyond

Spirited Proposal to Relax Dress Code in Flagler Schools Meets More Resistance Than Reason From Board

| January 21, 2015

Michael Manning, a senior at Matanzas High School, acts entirely in his element when challenging board members and school administration as the district's student representative. (© FlaglerLive)

Michael Manning, a senior at Matanzas High School, acts entirely in his element when challenging board members and school administration as the district’s student representative. (© FlaglerLive)

The Flagler County School Board has no evidence that the stricter dress code it implemented three years ago after debates more agonizing and divisive than any academic issue since has improved “school culture,” the terms used at the time by supporters of the change. What hard evidence it does have does not argue for the change: the district’s overall grade is down to a B after four successive years as an A before the dress code change. SAT scores fell to a 10-year low in 2014. And out-of-school suspensions are significantly up this year.

For the past nine weeks Michael Manning, a Matanzas High School senior and the most substantively engaged student representative on the school board since Ryan McDermott five years ago, has been pushing the board to loosen the dress policy by broadening the “spirit day” allowance to every day of the week. On Fridays—the current spirit day—students are allowed to wear their school logo t-shirt, school team jerseys or school club shirts. But only on Fridays.

Board members have been resisting Manning’s proposal, asking for data to back up the proposal. And more data. And more data, as they did again at a board workshop Tuesday, after Manning made his latest pitch with a survey of 100 students from Flagler Palm Coast High School.

Manning, never shy about directly challenging board members or administrators, also got a lesson in political and bureaucratic logic. Namely, that there often isn’t any, especially when it has no evidence to stand on.

“Why can I wear that on Friday but I can’t wear that any other day?” Manning asked.

“Because that’s the policy,” Board Chairwoman Colleen Conklin said.

“Oh, yeah, but what’s the reasoning behind the policy?” Manning asked.

“The reasoning is so you would have that Friday to dress whatever way in spirit that you would like to wear,” Conklin replied.

Manning challenged  the perception that the dress code has had a beneficial effect on discipline. “FPC is on pace to have the highest amounts of out-of-school suspensions in the last four years,” he said. And when Katrina Townsend, the director of student services, reported anecdotal evidence that parents were liking the policy because they could, among other benefits, hand down the clothes to their younger children, saving money, Manning didn’t buy it. “I don’t think a large majority of our students are in that position at this time,” he said, saying the policy hasn’t been around long enough for much hand-me downs. “Also, you can pass down a spirit shirt in the same way.”

Manning’s central point is that the majority of students, with football players’ exception, don’t play sports on Fridays, and therefore wouldn’t necessarily wear their team jerseys on Fridays, as football players can. That’s created resentment. That makes all those students very mad at the other students, because they don’t get to wear their jerseys, because it’s a pride thing.”

A policy never justified by data finds itself entrenched by the lack of it as the school board fears a return to divisive debates.

Manning produced a survey of some 100 students at FPC who, by an 84 percent margin, were very or somewhat dissatisfied with the dress code policy, with 61 percent seeing favoritism to football players and 66 percent favoring the expansion of spirit day to all days of the week. As one student commented in the survey, “Only allowing spirit shirts to be worn on Fridays is an entirely arbitrary decision. There is no reason not to allow it on other days.”

Manning claims dress code violations would drop while morale and the number of community service hours would go up, if his proposal was adopted, “because you can get a free shirt through community service and through participation in those activities.”

As always with dress-code matters, data was scant: some numbers are readily available, but they’re raw and lack the sort of depth that would enable analyses worthy of reliable correlations

For example, the district’s data shows that while in the first year that the dress code was implemented, hundreds of students got a one-time offense, those numbers have fallen since, with violations now centered on individuals who just don’t want to comply. One student has 12 dress code offenses so far this year. But there’s no indication on whether the drop in overall violations is related to more compliance or less enforcement, for example, while the district’s discipline team, Townsend acknowledges, has itself  taken a less punishing approach in general to reduce out of school suspensions (an approach with some numbers showing that it hasn’t necessarily worked.)

Click On:

“Anecdotally,” Townsend said, “as we went through that three year process of implementation, the teachers reported a couple of different things. First of all, the dress code was more difficult for them to monitor when it was less specific. So the more specific the dress code got, the more easily they were able to determine when it was an infraction. In fact, that might account for that spike in monitoring and actually being able to write up a notice on it. Also anecdotally in the first year of implementation, my phone rang a lot with parents who were concerned during that implementation process. But anecdotally, in this last year, not this school year—I’ve had no calls either way on it this school year—but last year into that year of implementation the community comments that I got were more along the parent line that they’ve been able to hand their uniforms down child to child,” or that it was simpler to dress children in the morning.

The board was divided three years ago when it adopted the new policy, with Andy Dance and Trevor Tucker opposed and Conklin, Sue Dickinson and John Fischer in favor. Fischer had made it his signature issue. Fischer is no longer on the board. He was replaced by Janet McDonald, who’s so far absorbed the discussions rather than staked out a position. Dickinson and Conklin, clearly, are not thrilled about revisiting one of the most alienating issue they’ve contended with in the last four years.

“I’m going to be really honest with you guys,” Dickinson told her fellow board members (Tucker was absent). “I haven’t thought about this and all of the above, and I know what Michael is presenting, and I know he’s not presenting us to take away the dress code, I know he’s presenting us to make Spirit Day every day as opposed to just on Friday. But if you remember, those of us that were here when we did this, and we implemented the dress code to start off with, this room was full of students that were not happy with us, and I’m concerned about being negative at this point, even though I am negative, because I’m against the idea. I’m concerned to voice that opinion. There’s a lot of kids out there that are going to be unhappy if we choose not to go with the change. There’s retaliation out there. We’re talking teen-agers.”

Sue Dickinson (© FlaglerLive)

Sue Dickinson (© FlaglerLive)

Dickinson feared personal retaliation. “We went through so much to get it here, why are we backing it off?” she continued.

Manning then challenged Dickinson’s perception that the district would be backing off the policy.

“You said that you don’t want to go back before we implement this because you guys fought for it,” Manning said. “And we’re not changing that. We’re not going back. We’re not turning the clock back. We’re adding to it. We don’t want to fix it because it’s broken. We want to fix it to make it better.”

“If we’re going to talk jerseys, let’s talk jerseys, let’s not talk the whole student population,” Dickinson said. “I think I can handle that conversation a little bit better than an outright—forget it, and put us all in school t-shirts and all of the above.” To Dickinson, it’s a matter of bending the rules that will tax enforcers of the policy too much. “I’m sorry, but if they were totally implementing our policy, these numbers should be going down, not back up again,” Dickinson said of out of school suspensions.

Dance, weighing in at the end of the discussion, said that expanding spirit day to different days of the week would not create an enforcement problem since teachers and staff already deal with it. “Whatever works on Fridays would work on the other days,” Dance said. But he was curious about data showing infractions on Fridays compared to other days of the week.

And so the decision was pushed to another day and another workshop, when the administration would present that additional data.

Conklin cautioned that if the board were to stick with its current policy, without changes, “that presents itself with challenges. So whatever we do do decide, if we decide to move forward in any way, I think that we need to be exceptionally purposeful in that.”

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

22 Responses for “Spirited Proposal to Relax Dress Code in Flagler Schools Meets More Resistance Than Reason From Board”

  1. Judy V says:

    I have always thought that this whole dress code policy was a big waste of time and energy. I personally have just never believed that dressing a particular way has a measurable effect on behavior and academic performance. I’m thankful that when my children were in school and they tried to institute a uniform policy, it was voluntary. And it was unsuccessful.

    What bothers me most about this are Ms. Dickinson’s comments: “There’s a lot of kids out there that are going to be unhappy if we choose not to go with the change. There’s retaliation out there. We’re talking teen-agers.” Can we not give the students any more credit than that? Yes, they are teenagers – so what? They’ve apparently been going along with a policy that most of them don’t agree with for a couple of years. Show me some data that supports your fear.

    Mr. Manning, keep fighting. This is a policy that never should have been instituted. Don’t let them squash your spirit.

  2. FedUp says:

    Mr. Manning is making more sense than any school board member. They’re asking for data on school uniforms? Seriously?The same group of people who fail to research in-depth any program that they vote for and implement in our schools? How pathetic, all of them.
    And stop with the “anecdotal evidence”!!!! You all work in education. It is all about hard evidence, facts. Show me one that proves how dress code leads to academic success.
    SAT scores at lowest in 10 years and our board is busy with dress codes and flagship. An embarrassment on all of us who voted for you!!! Won’t happen, again.

  3. Edman says:

    Dress codes are a simplistic answer to complex problems. It might make some feel good about “kids today” but it does nothing to address real behavioral and/or academic issues. The board needs to stop looking for some silver bullit to solve educational problems and really work with staff and students to implement changes that might improve our school system. For generations out of touch adults have railed about “kids today” but ultimately those kids do amazing things if they are provided sound educational opportunities and given half a chance to show their potential.

  4. mystique says:

    Everyone have very valid points. As a single mother of 4, the dress code has saved and helped me tremendously. Spirit day everyday is not a bad thing, as long as its school affiliated clothing. My son LOVES wearing his FPC clothing, even while on breaks. I also think things are fine with the way they are, bending TOO much defeats the purpose of having policies. Theirs always going to be Rebels that challenge, authority. Too many changes makes it difficult and confusing for EVERYONE. Bottom line, KEEP IT SIMPLE, it causes more problems when things keep being revamped; for parents, students, and staff. I applaud the school district, because its like I told my children, the dress code is preparing them for the corporate world. Burger king, Mcdonalds, the military, and job interviews you have to be tucked in, wearing a belt and IN UNIFORM or Follow the company’s dress code, OR GET SENT HOME:) I LOVE IT!

    • Former FPC student says:

      I can see your point it might help parents in some situations and honestly the dress code policy is out of hand. There more worried about how you dress then your education and for the poor buying new clothes was extremely diffcult and getting aid for new clothes was not easy at all. I one time forgot to where jeans and put on striped jean shorts because i forgot the new policy and was second week of school and I missed and entire day of classes. So when has the way you dress which is a restriction on expression become more important then the education to students? Thats whats wrong with the whole thing and society today. If dressing up is more important then a students education we as a country might as well be doomed because thats pure stupidity and you might as well have your kid stay with you in your home there entire life. Yes it might be abit of a extreme example but your telling me your rather have people dress nicely and lose class time ?An its different from the work world by far. An guess what your getting paid to work ,money in your pocket for a living .An the fact that the academic score’s are at all time lows in 10 years it proves the policy is only causing more damage then good

  5. Former MHS Student says:

    What a joke Flagler County. I’m extremely glad that I left Palm Coast and that small minded county. I spent a year learning more about academic, personal and technical skills in the Marines than I did at Matanzas. And no, I’m not some flunked out student. It you want kids to learn, stop imposing these stupid rules on them. Stop telling them what to wear and what to think. Actually teach them how to think. Maybe introduce some technical classes like automotive, engineering, HVAC, or computer coding to these students. For god sake, stop spending so much money on sports. Let’s face it, not all of them are the next Aaron Rodgers (shout out to my team, the Packers though). If you want these students to be successful, teach them skills that will help them out in life like a personal finance class, maybe even some practical application to the real world. Encourage these students to form a common group or clubs. Stop wasting the damn tax payer’s money on this BS and these statistics.


    Former MHS Student

  6. What's Happening says:

    Ridiculous. A ridiculous waste of everyone’s time, attention and energy. Micromanaging control freaks who live to make others’ lives conform to THEIR views.

    Unbelievable. These craven little fifedoms need to be disbanded, they’re becoming a threat to our childrens’ educations. Put a board in there that knows how to flipping prioritize appropriately. This is just….ridiculous!

  7. HonkeyDude says:

    Worried about saving parents money? With uniforms parents have to by twice as much clothes.
    School clothes and out of school clothes. If schools want uniforms then provide them.
    Sounds like the old folks home is calling the board. They apparently have lost touch with their inner child.

  8. Flagler Resident 45 yrs. says:

    Perhaps the School Board should take a parent’s approach. Which is, you bring the grade level back to an A, and reduce the Out of School suspension, then we might consider changing the dress code rule.

  9. Sherry Epley says:

    “mystique” has a good point. As a person who, for over 20 years, placed high tech people who made over $100,000. . . I can say from experience that kids should begin in high school to “dress for success”! That includes, good grooming, as well. They must prepare themselves, in every way, to be competitive in a “global job market”.

    My most successful job candidates for the really high paying jobs were comfortable in their corporate appearance. Often our outward appearance is a reflection of how we feel about ourselves inside. If all the kids aspire to is a job at McDonald’s. . . then, I suppose, it doesn’t make a difference.

    • Nancy N says:

      mystique’s advice is frankly only of use to people who want to make poverty wages.

      As a white collar professional who has achieved tremendous success in my industry and who has been center stage for TV and speaking appearances as part of my job, I’ve never had to be “tucked in, wearing a belt and IN UNIFORM”. As I’m sure you know Sherry, the $100,000 jobs you place don’t usually come with uniforms. Minimum wage ones do. People making high wages are expected to just know how to dress. Teaching our kids to follow detailed uniform codes that don’t allow them to learn to make any actual decisions about whether what they are wearing is appropriate is just teaching them to blindly follow rules. It isn’t teaching them to develop any judgement or decision making about what they wear. When they leave Flagler Schools, they will go out into the real world and have to make decisions about what to wear. The real world doesn’t come with detailed instructions or rules about what is appropriate most of the time. How do we expect them to know what is appropriate to wear to that job interview, party at the boss’s house, or “casual Friday” if we have only taught them to mindlessly put on the same khaki pants and polo shirt every day?

      If all we want our kids to aspire to is a job at McDonald’s, then let’s train them to wear a uniform everyday. If we want them to aspire to more, we should be training them to develop the skills for themselves to decide what is appropriate each day.

      Statistics don’t lie – Flagler Schools were sold (or rather, forced into) this uniform program on the promise that it would improve the learning environment and our academic results. Our schools have declined since it went into effect.

      The only one benefiting from this are administrators who don’t want the work of enforcing a real dress code (the reason the previous code wasn’t working was because they had abdicated responsibility for truly enforcing it), and parents who want to abdicate the responsibility to schools for fighting clothing battles with their child. It’s much easier instead of fighting with your kid to get them to wear decent clothes to hand them a polo shirt and khakis and tell them they will get detention from the school if they wear anything but that. But just because it is easier for you as a parent doesn’t mean it’s the best thing in the long run for your kid. They need to be taught to have good judgement with what they wear and those battles you fight with them are what teaches them that lesson. Abdicating that responsibility to the school means they never learn an important lesson.

      We left Flagler Schools partially over this issue and will not consider returning until this is changed. This issue is but one symptom of how the leadership gets an idea in their head and refuses to listen to any evidence counter to it, no matter the result. They have tunnel vision. We saw this as well with the special needs inclusion plan.

      • FPC Grad says:

        I completely agree with this statement. The uniform policy has not helped Flagler Schools. I have friends that attend FPC and about only 10% of the staff enforces the dress code. I hope the student board member doesn’t give in to to the boards tactics. Allowing the spirit shirts to be worn everyday is the least the board can do.

    • mystique says:

      Exactly:) and thx

  10. A Matanzas Student says:

    I’m currently a Matanzas student and being around the school with the dress code, I can tell you from personal experience it doesn’t work. Kids get sent to the dean’s office with a referral if their button down shirts are too see through. I’m sorry, but if someone wears a hot pink tank top underneath any color shirt, even black, it will show through. So many kids get sent with referrals and have to wait anywhere from 45 minutes to 4 hours in the office waiting for Mr. Sawyer or Coach K to call them in just to get told ‘Why are you out of dress code?’ This cuts into our 6 precious hours of instruction time, which the uniform policy was supposed to fix and make students focus on their studies more. Some people have longer torsos than others so a tiny bit of skin shows between the top of their pants and the bottom of their shirts. The policy should be enforced on teachers as well if you wish to keep this. A pink skirt and polka-dot shirt are NOT part of the allowed uniform, so why do teachers get to wear it? That’s the only reason you even got this voted in because teachers think that it is fair to force us to wear polos and button-downs, but they can wear whatever they want. Get off of your high horses and get rid of this stupid policy that was never supported in the first place.

    • current fpc student says:

      I could not agree with you more, thats exactly how it is at FPC. I’ve personally never received a dress code infraction, but it is a complete waste of students time and parents money.

  11. KMedley says:

    In my opinion, this passage captures the essence of the argument:

    One student has 12 dress code offenses so far this year. But there’s no indication on whether the drop in overall violations is related to more compliance or less enforcement, for example, while the district’s discipline team, Townsend acknowledges, has itself taken a less punishing approach in general to reduce out of school suspensions.

    Mystique states the policy is designed to prepare students for the real world, “Follow the company’s dress code, OR GET SENT HOME”. The problem is students are NOT being sent home. If the code is as simple as stated and faculty are able to identify when a student is not in compliance; then why does this one student have 12 violations thus far? Would that child have been sent home by the employer? Would that child have been fired? The article reports out-of-school suspensions have increased; and, yet, violations persist. SAT scores are down, The district rating fell AFTER the dress code was passed and implemented. So, what has the new dress code accomplished other than making it easier for mom and dad dress their children??

    • Nancy N says:

      Everyone keeps focusing on the older children and talking about how it makes it “easier” because it reduces fights over clothes. For me, as the parent of a younger (elementary) child, it was the exact opposite – a huge extra hassle. Many, many times I had to scramble and do an emergency load of laundry when my daughter had half a closet full of clean clothes because she didn’t have the “right” (uniform) clothes clean to wear the next day. It was ridiculous to waste time doing that when she had tons of clean clothes. Plus, my daughter is hard to fit and has motor skill issues. I spent an insane amount of time and money trying to find uniform-conforming clothing that fit her and that she could also manage with her motor skills. The uniform policy quite simply, to us, didn’t feel like a convenience or a help. It felt like a penalty or punishment.

      The board has gone on and on about how making kids dress a certain way makes them see school as their “job” and take it seriously and helps their self-esteem and achievement. Our daughter now attends online school. Many days she does lessons in her pajamas. Her grades are better, she’s learning more, and she’s motivated to do her school work. She loves school and is succeeding. So much for the magic of the polo shirt, huh?

  12. Another Former MHS Student says:

    I came across this article on my News Feed, and, after reading it, I feel the same way I did in high school when the uniform policy was implemented. I just don’t see why being able to wear spirit clothing on any day but Friday was not allowed. I know football games are on Fridays, and other sports like marching band and cheerleading were also in attendance at football games, so those three sports could wear their shirts and jerseys for those days. However, there are other sports that have games throughout the week, and (I can’t exactly remember) I don’t believe they could wear their jerseys on those days (again, I may be wrong, I wasn’t in a sport with games during the week and was barely at the school after freshman year because of dual enrollment.) I just think that if a student wants to wear spirit shirts during the week, it shouldn’t be a big deal. Honestly, I wore a Matanzas hoodie most days with a t-shirt underneath and wasn’t stopped, and I did that because it was one less thing to change out of because 2 out of 3 of the classes I was at Matanzas for after dual enrollment were active classes that I had to change for.

    I applaud Manning for speaking up and challenging the board, especially when they keep giving you “anecdotal evidence.” I think students would be extremely happy with this change, and the board should have a more open mind about a dumb shirt.


    Another Former MHS Student

    • orphan says:

      To ‘Another’.

      What a wonderfully written response!
      Oh yes! I think that maybe there really is hope for our country with students such as yourself, graduating and coming back to the community with ideas and not being timid about sharing them with the officials that used to intimidate you. (I’m guessing that last part).
      I’m so far out of the dress code era that all I can do at the moment is watch and (learn)?
      Thanks for a very well written opinion.

  13. Ryan McDermott says:

    Good luck to Michael and the rest of the student population. Evaluating a system is extremely important, and reading that some school board members have been quoted to say “We went through so much to get it here, why are we backing it off?” is really disappointing. To not judge the system you put in place because you put work into making it is terrible reasoning and leads to a stop in progress. My product design team and I went through this last semester, and the best choice we made was making radical changes close to the deadline even though we had spent 75% of the semester working on a different design.

    It seems to me that there are many valid points to make all days Spirit Days and no great counter argument. As someone who was against the dress code change (it happened the year after I left for college), I really hope that the efforts by Michael and others make a difference. The dress code appears to have not helped our school system (it would have made me less happy to attend school and could have negatively impacted my performance) and it SHOULD be talked about again.

    Best of luck students of Flagler county!

  14. Michael says:

    Coleen Conklin, the “Because I said so” member, this is the same woman who tripped over her on two feet and sued Flagler Beach, what a great public servant she is. Our school board has much bigger issues than dress code. I would have asked her what data you used to support the dress code in the first place. Next time just stand up there and argue with her as a child, ask why repeatedly, it seems to work for Ms. Conklin. Why don’t you give this young man a real answer as to why the dress code works, he gave you data as to why they feel it is not making any difference, falling grades and rankings. This may actually require work on our school board members parts, the real answer is, clothing has nothing to do with grades. Clothing does however burden some poor families with the extra expense of getting enough appropriate shirts, shorts, pants for each school-aged child, have three or more children, and it really adds up. That is not a problem for a school board member because they make $30,000 a year for their part time position, comes on FCSB, fix the real issues like the Belle Terre swim & Racquet club so our High School swim teams have some place to practice. They are just like any other politicians, making promises and avoiding issues, that is how you get re-elected, no real goals as a politician, never leave the public sector for the private, you would all be dismissed for failure to meet goals.

  15. ryan says:

    Just leave the kids alone and stop stripping them of a sense of individualism. The school uniforms seem to be a higher priority than punishing bullies, which is ridiculous. YOu have to publicly humiliate these school board and city councilmen until they back down.

Leave a Reply

FlaglerLive's forum, as noted in our comment policy, is for debate and conversation that adds light and perspective to articles. Please be courteous, don't attack fellow-commenters or make personal attacks against individuals in stories, and try to stick to the subject. All comments are moderated.

Read FlaglerLive's Comment Policy | Subscribe to the Comment Feed rss flaglerlive comment feed rss

More stories on FlaglerLive

FlaglerLive Email Alerts

Enter your email address to get alerts.


suppert flaglerlive flagler live palm coast flagler county news pierre tristam florida
news service of florida

Recent Comments

FlaglerLive is a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization | P.O. Box 254263, Palm Coast, FL 32135 | Contact the Editor by email | (386) 586-0257 | Sitemap | Log in