Mother uses Bible verse on modesty to fight Irving ISD dress code requiring tucked-in shirts


11:41 PM CDT on Wednesday, April 22, 2009

By KATHERINE LEAL UNMUTH / The Dallas Morning News
kunmuth@dallasnews.com

Dyker Neyland says she fought for her daughter’s right to attend Irving’s Thomas Haley Elementary School wearing an untucked shirt because of her religious beliefs as a Christian.

The Irving school board agreed with her this week and overturned decisions by the principal and district administrators, who had told Neyland that her daughter, Javé, must attend school with her shirt tucked in.

Neyland says Javé, a 7-year-old second-grader, has the right to wear her shirttail out because of a Bible verse, 1 Timothy 2:9, which dictates that “women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with propriety and moderation, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or costly clothing.”

“I don’t want her behind showing,” Neyland said. “I don’t want her body being exposed.”

It’s all a matter of interpretation. Many private religious schools enforce tucked-in shirts as well.

The school board’s waiver for Neyland raises an important question: Does anyone who cites Scripture get a pass on the dress requirement?

“I feel I am being persecuted for being a Christian,” she told the board before the vote. “There will be a day of reckoning, and you will have to answer to God.”

School board president Jerry Christian supported her request and said the student handbook for parents doesn’t even mention anything about tucking shirts in. Therefore, it’s unclear, he said

“Thank you, Jesus. God is good!” Neyland cried out.

The school board agreed with Neyland on a 6-1 vote. Board member Randy Stipes provided the lone vote against Neyland. He was unavailable for comment Wednesday.

Neyland said she was raised Baptist in Louisiana but does not attend church regularly since she cannot afford to buy a nice dress. She is a single mother. Melba Jackson, who cited the same verse in getting Irving’s Barton Elementary to allow her daughter to wear her shirt untucked, helped her with her argument.

The school district has a dress code but allows individual campuses that require uniforms the flexibility to adopt their own dress requirements for students.

All Irving elementary and middle schools require uniforms. According to the district’s Web site, elementary children are required to wear collared shirts or blouses tucked in with khaki or navy pants or skirts. Shirts are allowed to be white, light and navy blue, hunter green or an authorized school shirt.

The district’s attorney, James Deatherage, said that in Texas, parents may get exemptions to uniform rules if they cite religious beliefs.

Christian, the board president, said the rule is in place mostly so students appear neat and not “sloppily in dress” at school.

Irving assistant to the superintendent Ralph Diaz, who represented the district’s side in the hearing, said the dress rule is “consistent with all students.”

“It’s part of a dress requirement similar to a belt,” he said.

Neyland has repeatedly clashed with the school’s new principal, Lisa Molinar, at one point wearing a sign accusing her of being a dictator. Molinar said she had no comment on the situation.

Several board members mentioned their religious beliefs before voting, though their interpretation of the Scripture differed from Neyland’s.

“I’m a Christian,” said trustee Valerie Jones. “There could be a Christian who believes it might be more modest for their child’s shirt to be tucked in than not to be tucked in. … There is room for interpretation even amongst Christians.”

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