FORNEY, Texas — A petition to fight new dress code standards in the Forney Independent School District has garnered more than 2,600 signatures in just two days.
According to the district, for the 2022-23 school year, students will no longer be able to wear clothing with hoods such as hoodies, jackets, and coats, etc. Additionally, students in 5th grade and higher are no longer allowed to wear dresses, skirts, or skorts.
The dress code, according to the district, "is established to improve student self-esteem, bridge socio-economic differences among students, and promote positive behavior, thereby enhancing school safety and improving the learning environment."
Several area school districts already ban hoodies and Seagoville High School recently announced assigned polo shirt colors for each grade level in high school.
According to a video released by the district announcing the changes, the changes were made to begin preparing students for professional work environments post education and a means to resetting the standards bar throughout the district post COVID-19 pandemic.
The district has launched the "Back for the Future" campaign to roll out its initiatives, among them, the dress code changes. A spokesperson for the district says the dress code change was addressed early in the campaign to allow families doing back-to-school shopping to be aware of the changes.
"As summer is underway, we have time to begin to reflect and look forward into the future," Superintendent Justin Terry stated in the first of the video series, reflecting on COVID-19 pandemic struggles faced by the district and community. "It's time to return our classrooms back into the highest level of educational environments possible."
"This means, not just persevering, but excelling. Our kids deserve it. Our staff deserves it. Our families and community deserve it," continued Terry. "We need to get back; back to classrooms that are not only safe but, are also enjoyable and engaging. Back to a learning environment that supports a love of teaching. Back to high standards and expectations of students and staff that we have always had in Forney. Back to engaging parents and families as an essential member to the success of our students and our learning environments."
"I am so proud of how our district and community have persevered through the last two years together but its time we reset our bar and raise the standards. We have to start by going back to our core values, focusing on relationships first."
"As we move forward, into our future, we know that we must raise expectations for our students because our students deserve the best. Our best," he said. "This may be challenging at times as we reset our standards for the future, and we will work through this together as we make decisions that are in the best interest of our students, as always. We look forward to seeing you as soon as we prepare for the best year Forney ISD has ever had. Thank you for your continued support as we set our standard for our future, as we #GoBackfortheFuture of our kids."
Many who oppose the changes, in messages on social media and those who have signed the petition, call the restrictions "sexist" and a move for students to become more "gender neutral." Additionally, some say, the district doesn't do enough already to have consistent and fair enforcement of its current dress code standards.
Derick Hollaman, whose daughter Brooklynn Hollaman started the change.org petition, spoke to a representative from the district about the changes. While the district says hoodies became a safety and identification concern, both changes seemingly were enacted to target a disciplinary problem among students who refused to remove their hoodies in the classroom and students who wore their dresses too short, says Hollaman.
As for the professionalism, Hollaman says he has been involved in Corporate America settings for over 20 years in his personal career where skirts and dresses are acceptable.
Others on the change.org petition and social media, arguing the same point, say teachers should also be held to that same standard. And, some parents are upset the school sold them dress code-approved hoodies only to be told this next year they will not be allowed.
Many in support of the change say the dress code and recent changes help level the playing field among students, remove distractions and socio-economic standards clothes may present, and that parents need to do more at home teaching their children respect and discipline.
Calling the changes "unreasonable," Brooklynn says, "Any sensible person can realize that this is completely wrong."
Brooklynn plans to attend the next Forney Independent School District Board of Trustees meeting on Monday, June 27, 2022, to voice her concerns and present the change.org petition to board members.
As of Wednesday afternoon, Brooklynn's petition had received 2,650 signatures and was trending on change.org's "Popular" list.