Palestine parents fired up over policy

By Courtney Lane - bio - email

Posted by Ellen Krafve - email

PALESTINE, TX (KLTV) - It was a "spirited" day at an East Texas High School. A group of parents is outraged that their students got warnings and missed part of class this morning, all over their Friday spirit shirts.

Palestine High School said the kids were warned not to wear the shirts. But KLTV 7 found that there are other issues coming to light.

"What and who do they feel like they came to save," asked Netra Evans.

She wants answers from the new administrative staff at Palestine H.S. In particular, high school principal, Shon Joseph, who Evans said wanted to give Friday night school to the kids who wore the spirit shirts on Friday morning.

"He said if you don't obey my rules I'm not bending for you," said Evans. "You'll take her out of this school. And I said I'm not taking her out of school. I said 'Mr. Joseph, Katisha has worn this same outfit since school started, what's the difference today?'"

Audra Gibson also had to come and bring her daughter a change of clothes.

"There were parents upset," said Gibson. "It was just chaos. The students were upset and the line; I know there had to have been about 50 kids."

But Superintendent Dr. Thomas Wallis says spirit days are determined by administration, and kids were told that this Friday was not one. After a review of this incident, students just received a warning.

"No punishment was given to any of the students and we'll just have to work a little harder at being more clear on our communication skills," said Dr. Wallis.

He hired Principal Joseph six months ago, but some students said that under his authority, they feel like they're in boot camp.

"They're so strict I feel like I'm in juvenile [detention]," said Stormie Risinger, a student. "I mean, a school shouldn't be like this. We should be studying on TAKS tests not dress codes."

"We've got to make classes more meaningful, more rigorous, more relevant and then through that we'll have positive results," said Dr. Wallis. "I would say at the high school right now, you've got a very positive climate."

Evans said that it has gotten to the point where her daughter doesn't even enjoy school anymore.

"You're a girl and you have a guy that bursts in the room and says 'Stand up. Turn around. I need to see what's on the back of your pocket.' They don't want to attend school because you're in the cafeteria eating and somebody bursts in and you have 5 minutes, clear your tray," said Evans.

"Our students have plenty of time to eat, so there is no boot camp," said Dr. Wallis. "What I see when I walk through the hallways is, 'Hi Mr. Joseph! How you doing Mr. Joseph,' and the kids love him. The community loves him."

Dr. Wallis said his door is open for anyone who may feel "fired-up."

Some parents also say they're upset kids had to miss part of first period class over the incident. School policy states on the first dress code violation, a student will be given a warning, per semester.