Last month Mission CISD implemented a new temporary dress code that focused on the comfort and mobility of students and staff, according to district leaders.
When Superintendent Dr. Carol Garza and Deputy Superintendent for Support Services Lorena Garcia presented the changes, they explained the move was to provide the opportunity for students and staff to promote “innovative instructional strategies” such as working on the floor, standing or outside.
After reviewing the dress code with the District Educational Improvement Council, administrators, principals and teachers, Mission CISD proceeded with the adjustments. The changes include but are not limited to: allowing students and staff to wear denim jeans of all colors, allowing students in all grades to wear shorts of a specific length and allowing students to wear distressed jeans, as long as no skin is visible above the knee. One of the staff dress code changes permits men to wear hair that extends beyond the top of the shirt collar. Progress Times reported this change as making the dress code more gender-neutral.
District leaders presented the revisions at the March 9 Board of Trustees meeting. The board did not have to vote on the item.
But when the Progress Times published the March 25 article on the new dress code, several community members did not like what they read. A few of them took to the April 13 school board meeting to express their concern.
“Frankly, I’m sad and appalled by how things have changed in our schools and now that is why I am here,” community member Laura Gutierrez said during the public comment portion of the meeting. “I’m here to inform you that our local government in schools have failed our children miserably.”
Part of the concern for Gutierrez and the other public commenters is their lack of understanding of who the DEIC consists of, and why they are allowed to have a say in the dress code. Per Texas Association of School Board policy, the DEIC is composed of “representative professional staff, parents of students enrolled in the district, business representatives and community members. (Education Code 11.251(b)).” Still, the commenters felt MCISD did not consult with appropriate parties before making the adjustments.
The community members said the changes were unprofessional and did not prepare students for life after school, and they did not like the idea of using gendered language in school. Two commenters expressed confusion about why the district was concerned with making the students comfortable in their learning environment.
“I don’t want Mission ISD to follow the status quo. I want them to be different. Many times I see excellence in learning,” Al Perez said in the public comment. “They talk about making the students comfortable. I’m older than most of you. When I went to school, they didn’t make it comfortable. We were there for one reason, and one reason only, and that was to learn.”
The district will pilot the temporary dress code until the end of the school year. After, they plan to reevaluate over the summer before making it permanent in the student and staff handbook. But the concerned citizens ask Mission CISD leaders to have more discussions before making the decision.
Per state board procedures, the district is not supposed to respond to public comment at board meetings, Director of Public Relations and Marketing Craig Verley said. However, the superintendent did say she was happy to talk privately with anyone who wished to know more about the dress code and board policy.
“We are always open to meeting with you and providing details as to who is the District Educational Improvement Council, what the role is, how they get their data, and information from stakeholders. And we do have PowerPoints and information that we can certainly provide and listen to our constituents,” she said. “So please feel free to reach out.”