TATUM - Early Monday morning, a public hearing was held to consider, and act upon, the Level III grievances filed by Randi Woodley and Kambry Cox regarding disciplinary action taken regarding dress code violations.
It was a standing-room-only crowd, with supporters representing both sides. Also present were legal representatives of Tatum ISD and the complainants, NAACP representatives, Bernice Smith and James Hicks and ACLU attorney, Brian Klosterboer.
The grievances filed by Woodley and Cox purport that their Headstart and Kindergarten age children have been expelled from Tatum ISD based on a violation of the school district’s dress code policy. The legality of this expulsion has been called into question.
According to Texas Education Code 37.007, any student under the age of 10 may not be expelled except in cases where that student has displayed a firearm at school. As stated by Waukeen McCoy, attorney for Woodley and Cox, the expulsion of these children violates TEC policy and should thereby be overturned.
McCoy raised points concerning the legality of the wording of the dress code policy as it discriminates against gender and race. ACLU’s Klosterboer also spoke to the discriminatory nature of the policy, urging the district to allow the children to return to class saying, “The situation has escalated out of control.”
Klosterboer pointed out the trend within the court system to view these cases with heightened scrutiny and a tendency to rule in favor of the alleged violators and not with the school districts.
Heather Castillo, attorney for Tatum ISD, refuted the claims that these children have been expelled based on dress code violations. She stressed that they haven’t been expelled at all, but their enrollment has been revoked based on fraudulent information provided on enrollment documentation.
According to Castillo’s claims, when Woodley realized her income was higher than the levels needed to qualify for the Headstart program she provided alternate guardian and residency information to meet the low-income requirement.
Castillo’s claims regarding Cox are similar. She reports that Cox provided her mother’s address as the residency for her son, Kellan, while they live in Carthage, well out of the district.
While enrollment is possible using the grandparent’s address this must be done as a transfer. According to documentation entered as evidence, this process was not completed properly, thus leading to the removal of the student.
In the end, the Tatum ISD school board chose, in both cases, to deny the Level III grievances. McCoy stated that his clients do intend to file a lawsuit against the district specifically addressing the discriminatory dress code policy and the expulsion of the children.
Just before the final moments of the meeting, Larance Renard Hale, Woodley’s son, was arrested for possession of marijuana, on the school grounds, and held on a $1,500 bond. He has since been released on bail. Woodley was also restrained, at the scene, but was not arrested.