Another school year, another dress code controversy for Knox County Schools. Thanks to student outcry and petitions claiming biased enforcement, KCS Board of Education may be forced to reevaluate the policy once again. School board representative Jennifer Owen shares tips and tricks for students interested in speaking at a public forum.
Knox County only recently changed their dress code policy for a girl’s skirt length from middle “fingertip” to “knuckles.” Replacing one subjective requirement with another has not been sufficient for many students. Katherine Redden, junior at Central, states, “It’s a double standard in several ways; guys walk around the hall wearing ripped jeans yet girls can’t wear ripped jeans. School sports are also allowed to wear uniforms that break the dress code and nothing is said but then [other] students are punished or pulled out of class for wearing the same thing.”
Students in Knox County do have a voice, and avenues in which to make it heard. For any student whose passions lead them to join the cause, he or she can take their argument directly to the school board. Central’s own District 2 representative, Jennifer Owen, says it is essential to come prepared, “Always prepare in advance and have clear notes that you can see easily. Practicing will help students feel more comfortable speaking and ensure all points are covered in the time allowed.” Another factor is the presentation of professionalism. Speaking passionately and being argumentative are the subtle factors that make a difference in effective public speaking .
Keeping an even tone will strengthen a speech. Owen states, “Any time speakers become rude or disrespectful in either tone or language, they are less likely to make a difference…[creating] a feeling of animosity that makes it very difficult to feel connected to the speaker’s issue.”
When at a meeting, students are expected to first have made an appointment with the Board Executive Assistant (no later than noon on the meeting date) by contacting them at 865-594-1630 or by arriving at the meeting five minutes early to sign up with the Board Chair, Vice Chair or Executive Assistant. Both of these options should ensure an opportunity to speak. The speaker will have five minutes to express his or her point and, very rarely, a board member can choose to incrementally increase your speaking time by one minute. When speaking it is important to address the Board Chair, it is not allowed to target or speak to any specific members of the board, or teachers.
You may be asked by the Superintendent to expand on your point, but after five minutes are up it is expected of the party to return to their seat.
The Knox County Board of Education holds a meeting two Wednesday’s out of the month both at 5pm. The second Wednesday is called a “Regular Session”. This is when the board would vote and discuss an issue. If you can only make it to one Wednesday, a regular session is the on to go to. The first Wednesday in a month is called a “Work Session”. These sessions are meant to plan out and lay out the rules for the next meeting. This is when you would schedule to speak to the board and request they talk about the topic of dress code at the next meeting.
It is also important to know that meetings go on for at least an hour. The schedule is dependent upon how many speakers participate in the public forum. The board usually discusses for approximately an hour before starting the public forum.
For more information visit https://www.knoxschools.org/domain/974.
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