The suggestion to add a mask requirement to the dress code during an Aug. 19 RRISD board meeting reflected a tactic taken early this week by Paris ISD in Northeast Texas, but no action was taken.
Board members also expressed frustration with some aspects of the dress code, sharing stories of how it had been applied in ways that did not help create a positive learning atmosphere.
Place 1 Trustee Dr. Mary Bone said the fear of being “dress coded”—a phrase she described as being in violation of the district's dress code and asked to rectify the issue at school or call home for a change of clothes—had brought a student to tears while she was in a district administration office.
“I was about ready to start crying with her," Bone said. "It was embarrassing for me, it was embarrassing for her."
While the handbook did not appear on the agenda as an action item, board members moved to gather student and parent input in making adjustments that would “bring it in line with reality.”
Regarding using the dress code as a means to institute a mask mandate, Chief of Schools and Innovation Dr. Daniel Presley advised the board against such action. The measure has received pushback from Gov. Greg Abbott and Attorney General Ken Paxton, Presley said.
Speakers also criticized aspects of the proposed dress code which do not allow students to wear headscarves, bandanas and doo-rags.
Place 6 Trustee Tiffanie Harrison echoed the concern, citing cultural and religious implications for students of color with regard to certain head coverings.
“I'll give you an example. A black boy may play football in the morning, and he may shower, and he may want his hair laid," Harrison said. "So, if he wants his hair to be smooth and slicked down to his head, that will require a doo-rag, and he's not wearing it because he’s in a gang. He's wearing a doo-rag because he wants his hair to be nice for the rest of the day. We really have room to grow there.”
The board chose to seek student and parent input on the dress code and stated the matter will be revisited sometime in early 2022.