10-15-2020: Controversial LCPS dress code proposal pulled from Oct. 13

Controversial LCPS dress code proposal pulled from Oct. 13 meeting, undergoing redraft

REGULATION

Loudoun
10/15/2020: West NOVA News

A draft policy that would limit Loudoun County Public Schools students from wearing certain clothing, including apparel expressing political viewpoints, while at school is on the school board’s agenda for Oct. 29.

The policy was originally scheduled for an Oct. 13 hearing by the LCPS School Board, but was pushed back pending further review. 

The redraft set for the Oct. 29 meeting includes a 150-word policy aimed at addressing concerns about racism and insensitivity to the feelings of others. The newly introduced passage broadens the school system’s authority to impose dress code enforcement.


Eric Williams

“Clothing or other accessories or objects free from language, slogans, symbols, icons or images that are highly offensive or threatening to others and impede or distract from the Board’s mission of instilling values necessary or appropriate for polite civil discourse or political expression in a school context, social tolerance, nondiscrimination, self-awareness and sensitivity to the feeling of others, even if such does not result in a reasonable fear of immediate disruption. An essential Board mission is to teach students of different races, creeds and color to engage each other in civil terms rather than in terms highly offensive or threatening to others. For example, displays of certain symbols such as Confederate or Swastika images are perceived by many as racially hostile, are associated with racial prejudice, have been a source for conflict among students, and could result in hatred, ill will and emotional trauma that are all inappropriate in the school context,” the draft policy reads. 

Ian Prior, a Loudoun County parent and former Principal Deputy Director of Public Affairs at the Justice Department, has roundly opposed LCPS’ actions and said this is yet another step in the wrong direction.  

“This is yet another massively over-broad and vague LCPS policy that tramples over students’ First Amendment rights,” Prior said. “What is or is not ‘offensive’ to others is an unclear and subjective standard that could include absolutely anything based on the offendee’s subjective opinion.”

Prior said the policy could be applied or misapplied in any way deemed necessary by the school administration.

“The policy contradicts itself by suggesting that the dress code must be applied equally to all genders, suggesting that boys could wear dresses to elementary school, despite the fact that it would be ‘offensive’ to other students’ religious or cultural viewpoints,” Prior said. “All in all, this policy is a contradictory and unconstitutional mess.” 

Only a few miles away at Marshall Middle School in Fauquier County, such fears of the subjective application of a similar policy were realized after a group of middle schoolers were asked to remove Make America Great Again hats after district officials said “they were causing a substantial disruption.” 

The delay in a vote on the dress code policy is yet another black eye for LCPS’ “Action Plan to Combat Systemic Racism.” WEST NOVA NEWS JOURNAL NEWSLETTERWeekly News UpdateSign-up for our weekly newsletter and receive the latest news and alerts from West Nova News straight to your inbox.Submit

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LCPS Superintendent Eric Williams, the architect of that plan, has been characterized as a “far-left sympathizer.”  

Williams is under scrutiny by the broader LCPS community for his efforts to introduce “equity” curriculum to the school system. As part of that effort, West Nova News revealed LCPS directed more than $422,000 in taxpayer funds to a contractor to assist in developing the school’s curriculum. 

Earlier this month, the school board pulled back an agenda item that would have limited the ability of teachers to speak openly and in criticism of equity training and critical race theory. 

Teachers unions and parents expressed concerns to LCPS, along with threats of lawsuits, after the contents of the policy became publicly known

The school system responded by pulling the policy off of its Oct. 13 meeting agenda.  

The Professional Code of Conduct would have enabled the school system to “punish staff for any comments that are not in alignment with the school division’s commitment to action-oriented equity practices” to include “on-campus and off-campus speech, social media posts and any other telephonic or electronic communication.”