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Introduced Version House Bill 2977 History

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hb2977 intr
H. B. 2977


(By Delegates Williams, Campbell and Perry)
[Introduced March 10, 2005; referred to the
Committee on Education then the Judiciary.]




A BILL to amend and reenact §18-2-35 of the Code of West Virginia, 1931, as amended, relating to authorizing school level implementation of student uniform policies; stating findings and purposes; requiring State Board and county board policies; and specifying certain provisions that must be addressed in county policies.

Be it enacted by the Legislature of West Virginia:
That §18-2-35 of the Code of West Virginia, 1931, as amended, be amended and reenacted to read as follows:
ARTICLE 2. STATE BOARD OF EDUCATION.

§18-2-35. Student uniforms; findings and purpose; state county and school policies.

(a) The Legislature hereby finds that the clothing and footwear worn by students in public schools often preoccupy and distract students from their major purpose for being in school, which is obtaining an education. The Legislature finds that in schools that have adopted a dress code requiring students to wear school uniforms, disparities in student socioeconomic levels are less obvious and disruptive incidents are less likely to occur.
(b) The state board shall promulgate rules in accordance with article three-b, chapter twenty-nine-a of this code that allow a county board to implement a dress code requiring students to wear a school uniform. The uniforms may be required by the county board for either a school district, or for any certain school within the district. The rules shall provide at least the following:
(1) The county board may create an advisory committee comprised of parents, school employees and students for the purpose of considering whether the board should adopt a dress code requiring school uniforms for students in the district;
(2) The county board may create an advisory committee comprised of parents, school employees and students for the purpose of considering whether the board should adopt a dress code requiring school uniforms for students in any certain school within the district;
(3) If the advisory committee recommends to the board that a dress code requiring school uniforms for students be adopted either for the district or for any certain school within the district, the advisory committee also shall make recommendations on alternative methods of paying for the school uniforms; and
(4) If the advisory committee recommends to the board that a dress code requiring school uniforms for students be adopted either for the district or for any certain school within the district and if the advisory committee reports its recommendations on alternative methods of paying for the school uniforms to the board, the board may adopt a dress code requiring school uniforms for students.
(a) Findings. -- The Legislature makes the following findings:
(1) A review of the affects of public school student uniform policies in districts throughout the country supports the conclusion that appropriate student uniform policies are associated with:
(A) Enhanced school safety;
(B) An improved learning environment;
(C) A reduction in ethnic and racial tensions;
(D) Improved relations between students of differing socioeconomic backgrounds;
(E) Improved behavior;
(F) Improved self-esteem; and
(G) Cost savings for participating families;
(2) Several public schools in this state have adopted pilot student uniform policies and report positive experiences that parallel those reported by districts throughout the country;
(3) Recommendations for the implementation of student uniform policies given to the Legislature by representatives of the schools in this state that have successfully implemented pilot student uniform policies include:
(A) Allowing policy adoption and implementation on a school-by-school basis;
(B) Beginning the focus on policy adoption and implementation at the elementary level before moving up to schools with higher grade configurations;
(C) Including parent committees in planning, advocating and assisting with the adoption and implementation of the policies;
(D) Requiring the approval of the parents by a super majority, such as eighty percent, for the adoption and implementation of a student uniform policy;
(E) Allowing for voluntary compliance with the student uniform policy, accompanied by incentives for compliance and assistance to disadvantaged students; and
(F) Anticipating a time frame from beginning advocacy, involving parents, policy adoption and sufficient notice to final implementation that usually takes about two years; and
(4) Information on public school student uniform policies and successful strategies for implementing them should be reviewed by county boards and disseminated to the schools so that they may make an informed decision on whether to pursue adoption and implementation. Organizations such as the West Virginia School Boards Association that routinely present information on a variety of topics to county board members could assist in this effort.
(b)
Purpose. -- The purpose of this section is to encourage the dissemination of information on public school student uniform policies and successful strategies for implementing them to all public schools in the state so that they may be discussed and considered on a school-by-school basis for optional adoption and implementation. The further purpose of this section is to establish a policy framework to authorize the adoption and implementation of student uniform policies by public schools in this state, including the minimum criteria that must be included in the authorizing policies adopted by the county boards.
(c)
State Board rule. -- The State Board shall revise its existing legislative rule, "School Uniforms," if necessary to comport with the provisions of this section.
(d)
County board policies. -- Each county board shall adopt a policy under which the schools in the county may be authorized to implement a student uniform policy. The policy must address at least the following:
(1) The principal, the faculty senate and the local school improvement council of the school must agree that a student uniform policy would benefit the school and obtain a vote of sixty percent of the parents and guardians of the students at the school, or a greater percentage if established in the policy of the county, to adopt a student uniform policy;
(2) The principal must obtain approval from the county superintendent;
(3) The principal must appoint and may serve on a student uniform policy committee comprised of professional and service personnel, parents or guardians and, for schools with grade levels above grade four, students of the school to formulate the school's student uniform policy;
(4) The student uniform policy of a school must address at least the following:
(A) The types and colors of the student uniform;
(B) Measures to encourage or compel compliance with the student uniform policy including incentives and positive reinforcement measures to encourage full compliance and disciplinary measures that may be employed only after positive measures fail;
(C) Exemptions from the student uniform policy including, but not limited to:
(i) Noncompliance with the student uniform policy that derives from financial hardship;
(ii) Wearing a button, armband or other accouterment that is protected by the First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States as an exercise of free speech in the public school setting;
(iii) When wearing the uniform violates the student's sincerely held religious beliefs; and
(iv) Wearing the uniform of a nationally recognized youth organization such as the Boy Scouts, the Girl Scouts, or the Junior ROTC on appointed days;
(D) A process to provide financial assistance for compliance with the student uniform policy including, but not limited to:
(i) The designation of an employee or school volunteer to assist families in need of assistance;
(ii) A procedure for families to apply for financial assistance;
(iii) A procedure and criteria to identify families in need of financial assistance; and
(iv) A description of the form and type of financial assistance available in the school community which may include, but is not limited to, a method for recycling uniforms within the school community and any resources made available within the school community and its business partners;
(5) The principal of the school must cause a brochure to be published and distributed to the parents or guardians of the school's students informing them of the implementation of a student uniform policy at the beginning of the next school. The brochure must:
(A) Fully describe the student uniform program;
(B) Contain a detailed description of the student uniform and list the range of costs for each competitively priced item; and
(C) Describe the procedure for seeking financial assistance and the contact person; and
(6) A student may not be suspended or expelled from school, nor may a student receive a lower academic grade, for failure to comply with a school's student uniform policy. A parent conference must be held before the imposition of disciplinary measures on a student for failure to comply with a school's student uniform policy.

(c) (e) Nothing in this section requires a county board or any public school to adopt a dress code requiring school uniforms for students.
(d) (f) Nothing in this section requires any level of funding by the Legislature, boards of education or any other agency of government.



NOTE: The purpose of this bill is to
encourage the dissemination of information on public school student uniform policies and successful strategies for implementing them to all public schools in the state so that they may be discussed and considered on a school-by-school basis for optional adoption and implementation. The further purpose of this section is to establish a policy framework to authorize the adoption and implementation of student uniform policies by public schools in this state, including the minimum criteria that must be included in the authorizing policies adopted by the county boards.

Strike-throughs indicate language that would be stricken from the present law, and underscoring indicates new language that would be added.
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