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St. Johns County schools turn over documents in Title IX probe as dress code overhaul continues

Committee formed to update policy to meet after community survey wraps up on Friday

Friday is the deadline for St. Johns County parents to complete a survey on the dress code. A federal investigation into the district is moving forward.
Friday is the deadline for St. Johns County parents to complete a survey on the dress code. A federal investigation into the district is moving forward.

ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. – A federal investigation into whether the St. Johns County School District breached Title IX through its dress code policy continues as district officials on Wednesday turned over a cache of documents to the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights.

The probe was launched June 14 in response to a complaint filed in March, following months of backlash in the district, not only against the methods administrators used to implement the dress code policy but also the language contained within that policy.

The OCR requested that the district turn over an exhaustive list of documents and information including all of the established dress codes over the last three years, any policies that govern how dress code violations are recorded, information about picture day requirements at Bartram Trail High School, among other things.

DOCUMENT: Office of Civil Rights notice of complaint to St. Johns County schools

RELATED: Attorney weighs in on investigation of discrimination complaint over St. Johns County dress code

The complaint also cites the controversial editing of female students’ yearbook photos at Bartram Trail High.

As the district works with federal investigators, it’s also working to update its dress code policy through a community survey.

The nine-question survey asks parents for their student’s grade levels and aims to gauge their feelings on a wide range of topics, including whether it’s okay for students to wear pajamas or lingerie, see-through or mesh clothing, and clothes with rips or tears five inches above the knee.

Some parents told News4Jax the survey was a great idea by the district, but they felt it could’ve been executed better.

“I think the effort was a good first step,” said Irene Morse, a parent of two St. Johns County students. “They’re trying to get the conversation going, but it was a little bit haphazard because some of the questions really tried to get too much information into one question. For example, ‘pajamas and lingerie’ — those are not the same.”

Amanda Marshall recently graduated from Nease High School. She said addressing the issue feels like a step in the right direction.

“I think when we just kind of ignored it and no one kind of took measures forward, it made things really complicated, because girls always felt like they were being singled out,” Marshall said. “It made administration and students clash a lot.”

The survey will collect responses through the close of business on Friday, after which the results will be used to determine the next steps in the overhaul of the district’s dress code policy.

In late May, the district formed a 15-member, ad hoc committee to scrutinize and recommend updates to the dress code, although its first meeting on June 3 was postponed. SJCSD spokesperson Christina Langston told News4Jax the meeting will be rescheduled once the results of the community survey are compiled and examined, a process which will begin on Monday.


About the Author:

McLean is a reporter with WJXT, covering education and breaking news. He is a frequent contributor to the News4Jax I-team and Trust Index coverage.