Board bans blue jeans

Judy Kern, a first-grade teacher at Highland Elementary School, discusses the staff dress code, Tuesday. CNJ staff photo: Eric Kluth.

By Ryan Lengerich

Clovis school board member Mark Lansford asked the question bluntly at Tuesday night’s meeting:
“Let’s say tomorrow morning somebody at a grade school says it is cold outside and they want to wear denim — would that be acceptable or not?” Lansford asked school superintendent Neil Nuttall.
“No,” Nuttall replied.
The school board then voted unanimously before about a 60-person audience to adopt a general staff dress code, requiring staff to dress appropriately “as directed by their immediate supervisor and approved by the superintendent.”
Nuttall said wearing blue denim by teachers will not be allowed in accordance with the administrative directive he put forth in December.
Two people in attendance spoke out against Nuttall’s directive.
Judy Kern, a first-grade teacher at Highland Elementary, voiced her opinion, drawing applause from the audience.
“I have always been given high marks for my dress. Whether I wore denim or something else I felt that I was properly dressed for what I am doing,” Kern said. “I am asking the board and whoever else is here tonight to give me the opportunity and trust to know that I will dress appropriately for any activity I have on a given day.”
Teacher Ed Singletary called the blue jeans directive “flawed” and “sexist,” saying the edict is aimed at men because blue denim dresses are allowed for female teachers.
Kern, who said she has taught in Clovis for 19 years, said the blue denim issue is representative of a larger problem in the school system — morale.
“I feel that the morale in the school system at the present time is as low as I have ever seen,” Kern said. “I don’t feel that my desires have been aptly represented.”
The policy as approved allows blue jeans on certain days such as school spirit days. The board did not decide whether agriculture teachers should be allowed to wear blue jeans.
The board also considered an amendment submitted by Lansford concerning adding items to meeting agendas.
As it stands, a board member can submit a topic for the agenda and board President Lora Harlan decides whether the item will appear on the agenda.
Lansford’s amendment read that the public or board member may place an item on the agenda if submitted in proper time and in compliance with the Open Meetings Act.
Lansford’s brother, Clovis Mayor David Lansford, had previously been quiet on the issue. He delivered about a 15-minute speech.
“As I look back on some of the activities of the board and its policies I am a little concerned that there is a policy that would allow someone in administration to prohibit an elected official from placing an item on the agenda,” David Lansford said. “No member of this board has the right to regulate an item to be placed on the agenda by a board member.
“I would suggest emphatically that these board policy recommendations proposed by my brother, Mark Lansford, be adopted. It is appropriate and anything other than that is inappropriate.”
The crowd applauded, but the board did not approve the amendment.
“I hear no second,” Harlan said, before pronouncing the item dead.
“The policy as the board has it has worked really well for a lot of years,” Nuttall said. “So I am perfectly comfortable, but I serve at the board’s policy.”