Student Dress and Professional Conduct Policy Changes Go into Effect

The School Board last week enacted revised policies for student dress code and professional conduct of staff members—in different senses establishing standards for freedom of expression for teachers and students.

Revisions to the policy for professional conduct have been in the works since 2019, although the rules governing teacher speech came under scrutiny last May when a Leesburg Elementary School teacher, Byron “Tanner” Cross, spoke out against the district’s proposed protections for transgender students. Cross, who told the School Board that enforcing the policy would violate his Christian faith, was placed on administrative leave after an outcry from parents of students in Cross’ class. Cross sued for his reinstatement and was awarded an emergency injunction to return to his teaching position, Judge James E. Plowman ruling that Cross’ right to free speech had been violated. The school district appealed, but the state Supreme Court upheld the lower court’s decision. The case will next be tried in Circuit Court.

This revised policy reaffirms that, while teachers have a right to free speech, they are expected to heed the district’s commitment to “equitable treatment.” The policy states that “employees of the school division must recognize that they are in a position of public trust.”

In the policy, employees are told that they should report instances of violations of the policy to their direct supervisor.

Jeff Morse (Dulles) said that the revisions made to Policy 8270, Student Dress Code, represent the most substantial rewrite of any policy during his decade on the School Board.

“This addresses the need to provide equality in the dress code for male and female. The expectation is that the way a child dresses will never be held against them,” Morse said.

Under the policy, students may not wear hoods over their heads during classroom instruction, or tube tops. The hood restriction will not apply to religious headdresses and attire.

During a committee meeting in June, board member Ian Serotkin (Blue Ridge) said that he wanted the policy to limit student’s freedom of expression to the least extent possible.

Morse introduced a motion, supported by John Beatty (Catoctin) to include bare midriffs in banned attire. Though the motion failed, Morse said that he had spoken to six female teachers who supported his stance.

“It is not my attempt to body shame or enforce an unrealistic standard,” Morse said. “We’re in an educational environment and we have to have some level of consistency.” 

Morse called the policy otherwise very open and student-friendly.

Beatty moved to ban clothing bearing profanity. That motion passed 8-0.

8 thoughts on “Student Dress and Professional Conduct Policy Changes Go into Effect

  • 2021-09-21 at 4:56 pm

    I know there have been threats of litigation against the revised dress code. But in my humble opinion, it passes constitutional muster. If I had my druthers, bare midriffs would be banned. Bare midriffs would be unheard of when I was a student. “The times, they are a-changin,” as Bob Dylan sang. So I suppose we must go with the flow. Good luck LCPS as we embark on the fall season tomorrow!

    • 2021-09-22 at 10:24 am

      What an odd hill on which to die. It’s a navel. Everyone has one.

  • 2021-09-21 at 6:00 pm

    As I read this article I wondered how Tanner Cross would address a transgender parent. Would he refuse to acknowledge that parent’s presenting gender? Would he refuse to use that parent’s chosen pronouns?

    • 2021-09-21 at 7:29 pm

      You make a good point. I’ve been calling for a settlement. But Mr. Cross needs to let the public know how far he goes in his views. Will he acknowledge the gender identity of a Trans parent? What about if a Trans student’s birth certificate reflects their gender identity? Will he still refuse to acknowledge the student’s gender identity? An LCPS teacher can’t just attend a school board meeting, spew out their opposition to Policy 8040 & think they don’t owe further clarification to the community.

    • 2021-09-22 at 10:25 am

      We should refuse to acknowledge Cross’ preferred nickname and call him Byron.

  • 2021-09-21 at 8:50 pm

    The fact that you use trendy terms like “presenting gender” and “chosen pronouns” means you already know the answer. If a person described his or her interpretation of Scripture to you, you are under no obligation to believe or ascribe to that interpretation. Conversely, if you “present” as a different gender than your biology and go by “chosen pronouns,” I’m under no obligation to believe or ascribe to your beliefs either. Your argument could be, “You should respect my humanity.” Do you respect his? Is there less legitimacy in one’s faith as part of one’s “humanity,” or does that only apply to one minority?

  • 2021-09-22 at 9:00 am

    Religion aside, the idea that anyone can state he wants to be referred to as “they” is just plain stupid.

  • 2021-09-22 at 9:10 am

    What should the priority of the school board be?
    Eliminating discrimination?
    Then stop busing kids out of Leesburg and let them attend their local elementary school (Frederick Douglas).
    Eliminating bullying?
    Then publish all assault complaints by school/month and hold staff accountable for not preventing repeat bullying events by the same bully.
    Hold down costs?
    Don’t give bonuses to LCPS executives just because they showed up for work. Make sure all buses are at least half full. Change school start and stop times to allow more busing efficiency.
    Calmer school board meetings?
    Then respect parents by allowing them to provide direct input to all staff performance evaluations.
    More balanced talent on a per school basis?
    Then stop allowing teachers to move out of difficult to teach districts every time a new school further west or south opens. Why isn’t the teacher experience similar for every school?

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