Ardmore City Schools dress code update to be reversed, school blames uploading error

Michael D. Smith
The Daily Ardmoreite

An update to the dress code for Ardmore elementary schools may have been made in error, but the legal director for a civil rights group says it should be considered effective until properly rescinded. The Ardmore City Schools Board of Education late Monday updated its agenda to correct the May 18 vote that approved a ban on “social or political content." 

“It’s my mistake, I don’t mind telling I made a mistake but we can talk that through tomorrow and make sure the world understands that sentence is not in there,” said Marcy King, administrative assistant for Ardmore City Schools, on Monday. 

The sentence in question was included in the 2021-2022 elementary school student handbook approved by the board in May that prohibited clothing with “social or political content.” King said the error was discovered last week and that her version of the document, with the language omitted, did not match publicly available documents. 

More:Ardmore school dress code quietly updated, prohibits social content at elementary schools

“Back before we did the board meeting, we contemplated that sentence. I went back and looked at a training that we had that said we can’t do that,” King said. She claimed that the draft version of the handbook was erroneously uploaded to the district’s website. 

On Thursday, an updated version of the handbook was uploaded to the school board’s website with no mention of the original handbook approved on May 18. Requests from board members about what documents were presented to them have remained unanswered. 

"That’s not what the board thought had come before them. They obviously didn’t go in and look at it. We told them we didn’t change anything other than the jeans, they were going to allow kids to wear jeans with the holes as long as they weren’t indecent,” King said of expected dress code updates. 

“We’ll take it back tomorrow and say ‘look, the wrong file was uploaded. Here’s what it should have said,’” King said. 

More:School has student turn BLM shirt inside out, Ardmore mother upset by decision

Mike Redman, legal director for the ACLU of Oklahoma, said the original language prohibiting social or political content is a blatant disregard of the law and should be considered effective policy until properly rescinded. 

“The fact that they don’t know what’s in them tells me something. The dress code that was approved in May is unconstitutional on its face. It’s more unconstitutional than the application of the previous dress code,” Redman said on Monday afternoon. 

He said that the board may not be able to update the handbook and offending dress code without adding an agenda item ahead of the public meeting. The original agenda release by the school district on Monday morning did not include an agenda item related to the handbook. An updated agenda released later on Monday includes an item to "consider and take action to correct the Elementary Handbook dress code."

According to Redman, the language prohibiting clothing with social or political content clearly violates First Amendment protections of free speech. He said the school’s application of the dress code, even if erroneously, gives him further concern after two Ardmore elementary school students were removed from classes in late April and early May for wearing Black Lives Matter shirts. 

More:United Way sponsoring training focusing on adverse childhood experiences and community impact

“The fact that the dress code for the elementary school was revised in such a way when the dress codes for the middle school and high school were not also revised in such a way shows it was in retaliation for the original complaint under the dress code.” 

The Ardmoreite published a story on May 27 that reported the board had quietly updated the elementary dress code. Hours after the story was published online, ACS school board President James Foreman, Jr., confirmed that the handbooks were approved without board discussion but neither he nor Superintendent Kim Holland could explain the publicly available documents. 

This story has been updated to reflect an updated ACS Board of Education agenda for its regular meeting on Tuesday, June 15, 2021.