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SCS students requesting pajama pants, backpacks to be allowed in school

Student handbook updates for Shelbyville High School and Shelbyville Middle School sparked prolonged discussion Wednesday night at the Shelbyville Central Schools monthly board meeting.

Shelbyville High School assistant principal Bri Kompara and Shelbyville Middle School assistant principal Wes Hall presented potential guideline updates to the board after meetings with students, teachers and department heads in both buildings.

“The need for this is more to update the guidelines … but also are specific to current trends we are seeing in our buildings,” said Kompara.

Kompara and Hall, who will become SMS principal this summer when current principal Ryan Mikus becomes the school system’s Director of Student Accountability, requested that length, fit and style of clothing must be worn so that all students’ chest, back and stomachs are covered by opaque material. And all articles of clothing intended for use as undergarments must not be visible at any time.

“We’re hoping to put some values into the dress code as well on to the students and some pride in Shelbyville High School and Shelbyville Middle School,” said Kompara.

Superintendent Mary Harper stressed individual body size must be respected and an inclusive environment with respect to the students must be created.

“We have to decide where we want to pick our battles here,” said Harper. “I think students can dress appropriately for school without us trying to be the clothing police.”



The two assistant principals, who were representing their respective buildings, also are requesting an updated guideline to allow appropriate pajama pants in the learning environment.

“That is input from a lot of our students,” said Kompara. “We have to sit back and think if students are wearing sweat pants is that really impacting their ability to learn and is that really impacting the teacher’s ability to teach? Is it disrupting the learning environment?”

Board president Curt Johnson sought clarification for the need to remove the policy on pajama pants from the handbook.

“The students’ arguments right now are that plaid sweat pants and pajama bottoms are in (style),” said Kompara.

A secondary discussion started on the policy of no backpacks in SHS and SMS classrooms. At the start of the current school year, students were not allowed to carry backpacks from class to class.

“The students want the backpacks back at the high school level,” said Kompara.

The policy created for the 2021-2022 school year allowed students to carry a cinch bag no larger than their school-issued iPad. The intent was to clean up classrooms cluttered with larger backpacks and reduce what students were carrying from classroom to classroom.

Identifying what a properly-sized cinch bag was proved confusing for parents, though.

“There was a lot of is this OK? Is that OK?” explained Hall. “We saw an uptick in Trapper Keepers. It’s not a bag. You could define it as a satchel. For us, it was hard to have those conversations with parents.”

Administrators ran into students not wanting to use lockers, or not even being able to use combination locks.

The no backpack policy was enacted also to limit ways for contraband to move around the schools. The effect has been minimal according to Kompara and Hall. Kids just find more creative ways to stash materials.

“As an administrator, what I would like is either no backpacks or yes backpacks. No bags or yes bags because when we see language like no bigger than the size of an iPad it becomes really gray and really hard to enforce,” she said. “We are spending a lot of valuable time talking with parents and students whether this bag is appropriate when really we could be doing other work to curb some behaviors we are seeing, being proactive instead of reactive when major discipline happens.”

The school board wanted more information from the assistant principals before approving the guideline changes.

All of the proposed guideline changes are for the 2022-2023 school year.