Students vocal over suspension

Published 12:00 am Friday, February 17, 2006

NATCHEZ &8212; At least a few Natchez High School students want to share their take on recent dress code suspensions with the school board.

Leeann Rogers, 17, said she and a group of friends plan to attend next week&8217;s board meeting to voice their concerns.

Rogers spent Friday out of school because she was suspended for wearing a purple jacket. The jacket is clearly against regulations outlined in the student handbook.

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Principal James Loftin said Wednesday he was enforcing the rules, and students had been warned before the suspensions began earlier this week. Loftin would not specify how many students had been suspended.

Rogers and junior Jessica Evans, who was also suspended Friday, said more than 100 students had been suspended, with about 50 of those occurring in one day.

The girls said they had been warned over the intercom last week.

Rogers was escorted from campus by a police officer after her suspension, she said. Rogers said she was not rude to Loftin but did refuse to go back to class and remained seated in his office.

&8220;I didn&8217;t want to accept the fact that I was being suspended for a color,&8221; she said. &8220;I asked him what was the educational value of a blue or white jacket.&8221;

According to the handbook policy listed on page 19 of the book, coats or jackets other than solid white or navy blue must be removed once entering the buildings.

Evans said she was suspended for wearing her NHS soccer jacket.

The dress code suspensions are for one day only, Loftin said Wednesday. Suspension is the only option for the violation because the number of violations is greater than what the school can house in in-school suspension, he said.

Evans and Rogers said they intend to continue wearing their rule-violating jackets next week.

&8220;I&8217;m definitely going to wear my soccer one,&8221; Evans said. &8220;We just made the playoffs, and I&8217;m proud.&8221;

Rogers said she knew dress codes were important, but she thought the suspensions had gone too far.

&8220;I can understand the basis of the uniform policy,&8221; she said. &8220;But how are students going to learn if they are being suspended? They have to catch up. It&8217;s making some fall behind, and (it&8217;s) affecting everyone.&8221;

She also said it was hard for some families to spend money on acceptable jackets when they&8217;d already bought one in a different color.

Rogers said she&8217;s already contacted the school board office to be placed on the next agenda.

But school board policy sends such requests to the superintendent and the board chairmen, who decide what goes on the agenda. No students or parents from NHS were on the agenda as of Friday. The meetings are open to the public, and everyone is invited to attend.

Loftin and board Chairman Norris Edney couldn&8217;t be reached for comment Friday.