When the 2005-06 school year begins in August, pupils might have to be more choosey about what to wear.
The Columbia County School Board approved a new systemwide dress code at a Tuesday meeting.
The dress code would ban "excessive" hairstyles; hair coloring; body piercings; tattoos; and torn, tattered or ripped clothes.
Superintendent Tommy Price said that the board could face First Amendment issues with the dress code policy but that it could be seen as enforcing a new safety and learning policy.
"General welfare of the school supersedes any one person's rights," he said.
Board Member Mike Sleeper called out-of-the-norm dress a learning distraction.
"We're not controlling dress," he said. "We're controlling the learning environment."
In addition to banning certain dress, the board eliminated regulations requiring pupils to tuck in shirts and blouses designed to be tucked in.
"I think our schools freely support backing off on this and dealing with students on an extreme basis," Price said.
Other policy changes made by the board at the meeting included enacting more severe consequences for pupil lawbreakers.
Board members were concerned by a 10 percent to 15 percent rise in criminal activities in schools in the 2004-05 school year.
Pupils caught violating a "zero tolerance" offense could face a long-term suspension, which bans pupils from attending school for the rest of the semester and denies them credits they would have earned in that semester. Zero tolerance offenses include assaulting a school faculty member or pupil, bringing a weapon onto school property, sex offenses, and bringing drugs or alcohol to school.
"It sends a pretty strong message that you're not going to tolerate (bad behavior)," Price said to the board.
Once pupils' suspensions are over, the new policy would require them to attend alternative school for a semester before returning to their home schools.
The board also changed the name of Crossroads Academy, the system's alternative school, to the Columbia County Board of Education Alternative School.
Members said the current name sounded too prestigious.
Drawbacks to the new policy could be an increase in the system's retention rate and putting juvenile offenders on the street unsupervised, Price said.
The board enacted a dress code - khaki pants and golf shirts - at the alternative school, and prohibiting students from driving themselves to school.
Both policies received tentative approval at Tuesday's meeting.
They could get final approval at the board's next meeting June 14.
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