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Local Teachers’ Union Implores Board To Revisit Student Dress Code

Unified Association of Conejo Teachers’ (UACT) President Courtney Stockton addressed the Conejo Valley Unified School District (CVUSD) Board of Trustees during the public comments section of the February 21, 2024, meeting, urging them to “have the discussion” and “revisit the language” of the student dress code policy “and see if it has accomplished what we wanted it to and how the implementation is going.”

Trustee Cindy Goldberg, also board president, told her fellow board members she’d heard concerns from individual teachers and administrators regarding safety concerns.

“The new policy does not shame people,” Goldberg said, but “things like hoop earrings on playgrounds,” which are allowed by policy, “seems like a safety concern.”

The board approved what has become a controversial new student dress code policy in April 2021. However, as Westlake student and honorary student trustee Naima Kahl said during last month’s board meeting, “I think there is some confusion … once we came back from COVID, it was a little up in the air and all of a sudden there was a new dress code, and no one really mentioned it.”

“[W]hatever dress code is in place, it is not necessarily being enforced.”

— CVUSD Board Trustee Karen Sylvester

The current dress code, Board Policy 5132, was spearheaded by a seven-student committee, of which former trustee Jenny Fitzgerald’s daughter was a member. All current board members approved the adoption of the new dress code policy in 2021, with the exception of Lisa Powell, who was elected to the board in 2022.

That student-created dress code read in part: “Conejo Valley Unified School District’s student dress code supports equitable educational access and is written in a manner that does not reinforce stereotypes and that does not facilitate marginalization or discrimination oppression of any group based on race, sex, gender identity, gender expression, sexual orientation, ethnicity, religion, cultural observance, household income or body type/size.”

The district summed up its dress code by saying: “Certain body parts must be covered for all students. Clothing worn must cover genitals, buttocks, and nipples with opaque material at all times, no matter the student’s movements.”

Kahl was curious to learn how adults felt, saying, “From a student perspective, I don’t get to hear a lot about what teachers and staff and people outside of the student body think about the dress code.”

Trustee Karen Sylvester added “that whatever dress code is in place, it is not necessarily being enforced.”

Enforcement may be hampered by the policy itself, which states, “students shall not be directed to correct a dress code violation during instructional time or in front of other students.”

Trustees directed embattled Superintendent Mark McLaughlin to create a stakeholder committee from which to solicit feedback. For more information on this committee or how to share comments, McLaughlin may be contacted by email at [email protected] or by phone at (805) 497-9511, x1102.

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