Chatham school board tips its hat to indoor headgear

CHATHAM–The Board of Education welcomed two new members last week, as Teri Conte and Chris Kelly were sworn in at last week’s annual organizational meeting. Superintendent Cheryl Nuciforo also introduced the board’s new student representative, Carly Rippel.

Members James Marks and Edward Knight, both incumbents who were reelected to seats on the board, were sworn in following the May 20 vote.

The new board re-elected Melony Spock president and chose Jennifer Lindberg a vice president, replacing James Toteno. Mr. Toteno’s seat on the board expired this year and he did not seek reelection.

While the July 8 meeting consisted mostly of various routine annual decisions, appointments, and approvals of agreements, a potential snag appeared before the board voted to adopt revisions to the district’s Code of Conduct.

Suggested changes included adding: pocketknives to the list of examples of weapons; strapless tops and dresses to inappropriate dress; and electronic cigarettes and powdered alcohol as prohibited items. Board members did not raise objections to the inclusion of these items, but Ms. Conte took issue with suggested changes to the code eliminated the prohibition on wearing hats and outerwear inside the school. She said it was disrespectful to wear hats indoors and some clothing can be very distracting to other students.

Ms. Nuciforo said the new language would only reflect what the district is already doing. She said there is a different opinion today about hats indoors.

“Over the past few years, we’ve moved away from enforcing the no hats rule and evolved into a situation where as long as they’re not distracting, students can wear them in the hall and the cafeteria,” she said. The superintendent said the changes to the code were “really a matter of capturing current practice.”

She added that in the classrooms teachers still have the authority to ask students to remove their hats.

Most of the other board members expressed support for the change to the hat ban.

“I don’t see any problems with kids wearing hats and outerwear unless it does become disturbing; then you deal with that as it appears,” said Mike Clark. “It reflects the way people dress today,” he said.

Ms. Conte said that the every other district in the county bans hats indoors, and added that this could “snowball” regarding decisions about what is acceptable in other aspects of the dress code.

“Excessive clothing isn’t going to be as much of a distraction as the opposite end of the spectrum,” Mr. Kelly said in support of the change.

Mr. Marks said the change should be accepted to match current practice, but he also wanted to look at the whole Code of Conduct to see what is or isn’t being enforced. Several board members agreed. The changes were approved by a vote of 8-1, with Ms. Conte the dissenting vote.

The next board meeting is scheduled for July 22 at 6:30 p.m. in the High School library.


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