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Mask Policy, awards, graduation and controversial clothing

Tim Walker
AMR Reporter

Pocahontas County Schools Superintendent Terrence Beam recently discussed a possible new mask rule for students, end of year awards ceremonies, graduation and complaints about some students wearing clothing with political messaging.

“I want to touch on where we are with our re-entry plan finishing up the school year,” Beam said. “At our next board meeting, we are going to officially put in our re-entry plan that employees and students won’t have to wear their masks when they are outside. That’s something the CDC and the State has come down with, but we have not formally put it in our re-entry plan. So, we will be doing that at our May 11 board meeting.

“Also, in the spring we always have our awards ceremonies at our various schools. And those are going to be taking place in some instances, but not to the extent that we have been able to do in the past. There’ll be limited ceremonies at each school with limited attendance, and each school is handling that on their own.

“Graduation is scheduled for May 30 and will be held on the football field. In speaking with Mr. Riley, he feels like we’ll be able to include more attendees than last year.

“So that’s kind of where we are with finishing out the school year.”

Mr. Beam then talked about complaints that have been made about political messaging on some of the students’ clothing.

“Some things have been said and printed on Facebook about the fact that our students were wearing inappropriate attire at school,” Beam said. “And I do want to touch on that a little bit. “People can have their opinions.

“In a lot of cases, it comes from political considerations as far as what kids should wear or shouldn’t wear – and what they shouldn’t wear if it’s a political mask or a T-shirt or whatever. The school system has to be very careful not to intervene in their dress code.

“We basically have two guidelines we have to follow. First of all, if it is something obscene, then, obviously, we can address that. If it is something that disrupts the educational process, we can get involved in that. But other than that, just because a student wears a T-shirt or a mask that other students, or staff, or even teachers object to because of political reasons, and they say they should not wear those, that’s just not the case.

“We have just as many people on the other side saying ‘My child has a right to wear that shirt or that mask because it’s our belief. It’s not obscene.’

“It may be controversial, but what is not controversial in our society anymore? So we have to be very careful in how we navigate that. A lot of times people think we are just ignoring it. We’re not.

“I had to send a letter out this week, and I attached to that letter a link to a court case that occurred in Pendleton County a few years ago where a school system tried to muffle or limit what a student could wear. The Supreme Court said you absolutely cannot do that.

“The students have more rights than the employees or the parents as far as what they can and can’t do at school. So, it is controversial and people are on one side or the other. There’re not too many people in the middle on this. They think it is OK, but if it’s OK for a student to wear a particular type of shirt then it’s got to be OK to wear something different, too.

“You’ve got to be really careful, and we are not the moral police. We try and guide our students in the right direction and give them the best advice we can, but we are not their parents, and we don’t think it’s our place to try to tell them what to believe and what not to believe. That’s up to them to decide. It’s up to their parents to teach them. We just simply have to try to provide the resources and the freedom to express their opinions, as long as it’s not obscene or disruptive to the educational process.

“I am not speaking for the board or anybody else, I am speaking for me, but I think we have to be really careful what we try to legislate to our students.”

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