Tatum ISD Superintendent J.P. Richardson has accepted recommended changes in the district’s dress code and has eliminated Head Start, replacing it with two more prekindergarten classes.
At Monday’s school board meeting, Assistant Superintendent Drenon Fite said research showed that out of about 90 school districts, Tatum’s was the only one with specific wording on “puffball” hairstyles in the dress code.
Specifically, Fite said no other district in the Region 7 Education Service Center had the word “puffballs” in the dress code.
Fite gave a presentation from the district improvement team with recommendations to change the hair and grooming policy within the dress code.
Fite said the team met and looked over some of the language of the dress code, which currently states, a “student’s hair shall be clean and well groomed at all times and shall not obstruct vision. No extreme style or color (neon, etc. …) Only natural hair color shall be allowed. No symbols, letters or extreme designs cut in the hair shall be permitted. No ponytails, ducktails, rat-tails, male bun or puffballs shall be allowed on male students. All male hair of any type shall not extend below the top of a T-shirt collar, as it lays naturally.”
Fite told trustees that after the district improvement team met and heard his research on other dress codes, the team’s recommendation, at this point, was to remove the word “puffballs” from the student dress code and include “no male hair accessories.”
Fite said the team understands the dress code will be revisited based on possible future recommendations from the campus improvement teams.
“Anything that will single out any ethnic group will be removed, so it was no hair accessories — period,” he said. “If you want to have a ponytail, you need something to hold it up. … So that one line addresses pretty much all groups.”
Richardson said he accepts the recommendation, because it is an administrative regulation.
Tatum ISD has been under fire and might face a lawsuit from a mother and grandmother who have been fighting the dress code, which they claimed was racially discriminatory.
Edwina “Randi” Woodley and Kambry Cox first took issue with Tatum ISD over the dress code in August.
Cox’s son, Kellan, 5, was told he is out of dress code compliance because his hair is in dreadlocks.
Woodley’s grandson, Michael Trimble, 4, of whom she has custody, was told he is out of dress code compliance because of the length of his hair. Michael’s hair falls past his shoulders.
The children spent some time in in-school suspension and are no longer allowed to attend classes.
In October, the women went before the board for a hearing with their lawyer to try to get their children back in school and the hair and grooming policy changed. Their grievances were denied.
At the hearing, the district’s lawyer said the children were not expelled, but were “unenrolled” because Cox does not live in the school district and because Woodley manipulated the Head Start system to get Michael in.
Woodley was arrested in October on a perjury charge related to Michael’s enrollment on Aug. 1.
According to the affidavit, Woodley presented a notarized letter to the school stating she was giving her mother, Barbara Johnson, guardianship over Michael. She provided the letter to the school after she was notified she was not able to enroll Michael in Head Start because of her income.
About a month later, Region 7 Education Service Center confirmed Woodley had custody of Michael and that he lives at her home with her.
At Monday’s board meeting, Richardson also informed the board the district has notified Head Start that Tatum ISD will no longer participate in the program.
Instead, the district will offer two more prekindergarten classes, accommodating the same number of children.
“It’s pretty much the same criteria to enroll; nothing’s changed there,” he said. “We wanted to make sure that everyone knew that we were not doing away with Head Start and not adding something else. So we’re adding two more pre-K classes in Head Start’s two classes.”