First-ever student-led school policy amendment discussed at committee

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Kellen Barbee. Photo/Andrew Sylvia

MANCHESTER, N.H. –  Last week, the first-ever student constructed Manchester School District policy came one step closer to reality following discussion by the Manchester Board of School Committee (BOSC) Policy Committee.

The proposed policy change to the district’s dress code was spearheaded by Central student Kellen Barbee, one the BOSC’s student representatives.

Barbee told the committee that that the primary change transfers the focus from school officials to a more collaborative approach including guardians in protecting students from harassment.

The policy also is more relaxed in some areas, allowing non-religious and non-medical headwear in non-instructional settings such as cafeterias and permitting, but not recommending, open-toed footwear for middle school and high school students.

“All students should be able to dress comfortably in a safe environment,” he said.

The policy also removes punishment that would cause students to lose instructional time and also specifies that the policy shall be enforced equally among all students in the district, drawing praise from At-Large Board of School Committee Member Jim O’Connell.

O’Connell also recommended adding hooded sweatshirts off the list of acceptable clothing due to security concerns.

While items in committee in the final days of a BOSC term have generally reset in the past to allow new board members a chance to make their own imprint on proposed policies, Ward 11 BOSC Member Dr. Nicole Leapley said it wasn’t needed since most sitting BOSC members would be returning when the new term begins in January.

BOSC Clerk Angela Carey said that the “reset” was not a requirement, although it could be useful when a large number of new members join the board.

Barbee recommended that a “soft launch” of the proposed policy begin in the final quarter of the 2021-’22 school year, but acknowledged that would be difficult since elementary schools have trimesters rather than quarters.

Due to that and the need for Manchester School District Legal Counsel Kathryn Cox Pelletier to review the policy, as she was out on maternity leave when the policy was first discussed earlier this year, the proposal was referred to administration. It is expected to return to committee in January.

About this Author

andrewsylvia

Andrew Sylvia

Assistant EditorManchester Ink Link

Born and raised in the Granite State, Andrew Sylvia has written approximately 10,000 pieces over his career for outlets across Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Vermont. On top of that, he's a licensed notary and licensed to sell property, casualty and life insurance, he's been a USSF trained youth soccer and futsal referee for the past six years and he can name over 60 national flags in under 60 seconds according to that flag game app he has on his phone, which makes sense because he also has a bachelor's degree in geography (like Michael Jordan). He can also type over 100 words a minute on a good day.