PAnews.com, Port Arthur, Texas

August 16, 2013

Porterie enlists parents to gain order

Dress code enforcement a first step toward goal

Erinn Callahan
The Port Arthur News

PORT ARTHUR — A meeting between the employees of the Port Arthur Independent School District and concerned parents and community members began with a video.

Mark Porterie showed a clip from a local news station, featuring a teary-eyed mother whose 17-year-old son, once a straight-A student, can now only hope to complete his senior year after being arrested for driving the getaway car following a home invasion in Beaumont.

“Our job in this community is to try to ensure parents do not face that,” Porterie said at the Thursday meeting, held at the PAISD administration building, 4801 Ninth Ave. “We can do something now, while they’re in school, before it’s too late.”

Since stepping in as interim superintendent in May, Porterie has held several in an effort to increase the district’s transparency and establish an open dialogue with the community. At this particular meeting, the most popular topic of discussion was the enforcement of the ban on hooded sweatshirts, or “hoodies,” and cargo pants.

The ban has been in effect for the past seven years and can be found in the district’s code of conduct, Porterie said, but due to lackadaisical enforcement at some schools, the administration has had to regroup. This year, after the first week, students wearing them will be sent home.

“You can carry anything in those pockets,” Porterie said.

The issue of “sagging” — wearing pants low enough to display undergarments — was also breached. This dress code infraction, Porterie said, will be enforced just as stringently.

“We say, ‘Pull your pants up,’ all day,” Porterie said. “Parents need to step up and say, ‘Pull your pants up. You’re not going to embarrass me.”

This idea was met with assent from most of the parents in the crowd. Parent Marlina Brady said the prohibition of hoodies and sagging pants at school will deter her son from wearing them at home.

“Since it’s being implemented right off the bat, maybe he’ll get in the habit of not doing it,” said Brady, whose son will begin kindergarten at Terrell Elementary on Aug. 26. “We need to agree with the school, because our kids do and say what they see us do and say.”

The Rev. Don Frank, who is affiliated with approximately 150 PAISD students as senior pastor of New Hope Missionary Baptist Church in Port Arthur, agreed.

“In light of the Trayvon Martin situation, it has sensitized us to hoodies being worn by young African-Americans,” Frank said. “We need to be very cognizant of student safety.”

Student safety was another hot topic at the meeting. Although one parent voiced his displeasure at learning that Memorial High School only had three hall monitors, Porterie said his goal is to eliminate the necessity for law enforcement in the schools.

“It’s our hope that we can control our children enough that we do not need police or hall monitors,” Porterie said. “But it’s going to take us together to move them out.”

 The message at Thursday’s meeting was similar to the one from previous meetings — no entity in Port Arthur can be held solely responsible for the students of PAISD.

“We cannot be successful if home and school are not on the same page,” Porterie said. “We are partners with you. We are not against you.”

Email: ecallahan@panews.com

Twitter: @ErinnPA