Ruckel Middle School to Change This Part of Its Dress Code for Next School Year

Ruckel Middle School is finalizing plans to require students to wear 'spirit shirts' four days a week starting this fall.

Ruckel Middle School may implement mandatory spirit shirt wear for four of the students’ five days of the working week starting in August of 2024, when school returns. 

Ruckel Middle School’s School Advisory Council (SAC) voted to approve the measure at their February meeting. 

School District Public Information Officer and SAC Co-Chair Catherine Card wrote in an email to Mid Bay News that the school “is creating the framework for a spirit shirt policy—not a uniform policy.” She noted that the school’s advisory committee approved the idea at its February meeting, but the details have yet to be worked out. She added that the SAC had not finalized all of the details concerning the initiative but noted that incoming middle schoolers’ parents and guardians were notified about the change and that a letter will go out at the end of April to all student’s parents and guardians. 

Currently, the school will require students to wear ‘spirit shirts’ Monday through Thursday and have Friday as a ‘free day.’ 

According to Card, Ruckel Middle School will provide two free shirts for each student. Additional shirts will be available for purchase for less than $10 – and local businesses will work with agents of the school to create them. 

Card noted in her email that Meigs, Davidson, Pryor, and Destin Middle Schools currently have a uniform and/or spirit shirt policy. “This is not a district rollout and has nothing to do with the high schools,” she added. 

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Full Statement from Okaloosa Schools

Public Information Officer Catherine Card gave a comprehensive statement concerning the change said, “The main purpose of the spirit shirt initiative is to further enhance our already strong traditions and culture at Ruckel Middle School. We have exceptional students, and we are always striving to improve to maintain our position as the best. The spirit shirt initiative aims to boost school spirit, reduce disciplinary issues, and support the school’s climate and culture initiatives that are represented by our school colors and theme. While we are not exempt from dress code issues, our teachers prioritize instruction and address students to correct any dress code violations. Referrals are typically only issued to habitual offenders, as our goal is not to punish students, but to enable them to take corrective action in accordance with the dress code policy. The spirit shirt initiative will alleviate social pressures on students to wear fashionable clothing that does not comply with the district dress code. Additionally, students will receive two shirts at no cost, and others will be available for under $10, a much more cost-effective option compared to the majority of shirts currently worn by students. We are enthusiastic about implementing this initiative next year!”

Florida Law on Uniforms

Florida State Law makes several requirements of school districts regarding the clothing worn by students on campus. Florida State Statute 1006.07 requires districts to “adopt a dress code policy that prohibits a student, while on the grounds of a public school during the regular school day, from wearing clothing that exposes underwear or body parts in an indecent or vulgar manner or that disrupts the orderly learning environment.”

The law also prescribes punishment for dress code violations. A first offense warrants a verbal warning and a call to the student’s parent or guardian. A second offense renders the student ineligible to participate in any extracurricular activity for a period not to exceed five days. It also requires a meeting with a parent or guardian. 

A third or subsequent offense requires schools to issue an in-school suspension to the student for three or fewer days and a 30-day ban from extracurricular activities. The principal must also call the student’s parent or guardian and send them a letter regarding the suspension and ineligibility to participate in extracurricular activities. 

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