Last Thursday's meeting of the Beauregard Parish School Board (BPSB) saw an intense debate over a hot topic among students, parents, teachers, and administration.
The issue is whether or not students should be able to wear blue jeans to school on a regular basis, as long as the jeans had no rips or holes in them.
The debate began at the meeting when David Wentzel read the recommendations of the Discipline and Dress Policy Committee that met prior to last weeks school Board Meeting.
The committee was comprised of Superintendent Tim Cooley, one school board member, two administrators, two counselors, seven teachers, and two parents.
Wentzel emphasized that he was strongly against students wearing blue jeans, and feared that it was a safety issue to let blue jeans be worn by students on a regular basis.
He noted that the committee did not receive a second on the motion to approve jeans, although it was a big topic of discussion for those in attendance at the committee meeting.
Board Member Cassie Henry spoke on the issue claiming that many parents, students, and teachers are in favor of allowing jeans.
She also stated that many parents have issues with the khaki pants because on many occasions they do not last an entire school year.
Many parents are concerned also that the required khaki pants cannot be bought within the parish, and that they are not easily accessible.
Henry said "I don’t think we should require our students to wear something that their families can’t buy locally. I will continue to fight for this every year."
Henry refuted the notion that khaki pants are an effective safety measure.
She and other board members brought up the fact that many schools have days where students can wear blue jeans to school.
Which brought up the question: If khaki pants are a safety issue, then why are there special days to wear jeans? The explanation was given that there are relatively few jean days in the parish, and that the board tries to keep a limit on those days.
Henry noted that the students are currently allowed to wear dark blue uniform pants along with khaki pants.
She pointed out that the dark blue pants are almost the same color as blue jeans, and questioned the level of danger that jeans could actually bring to the students.
Henry made a motion at the meeting to add blue jeans to the dress code. After the intense discussion by the board, her motion was ultimately defeated six votes to four officially.
Although the vote did not go her way, Henry expressed that she will continue fighting for blue jeans every year.
She said “Years ago when I was elected this was one of the most common things that parents told me that they wanted to see done. I’ve spoken to parents and teachers. Teachers just want to teach, no matter what pants the kids are wearing.”
The Beauregard Daily News asked residents on Facebook to voice their opinion about the controversial subject.
There were hundreds of comments and a very large majority of those commenting were in favor of making blue jeans an option.
Many of the parents stated that the khaki pants are hard to buy, and they don’t last long.
Among those in support of blue jeans was DeRidder Mayor Misty Clanton. Clanton posted on Facebook after seeing the overwhelming response that the post was getting.
Clanton said “I personally spoke at the policy meeting and advocated for blue jeans to be added to our uniform by following proper protocol. I heard some bogus excuses as you can imagine. To say it was frustrating would be an understatement.”
Clanton also said “more people need to speak up and it is time our elected board members should listen. I commend Cassie Henry for fighting this battle every time she has been in office. Unfortunately, she stands alone most of the time.”