Investigations launched by the Bluffton Police Department and the Beaufort County School District into an accusation of inappropriate contact between a student and teacher during a uniform inspection Thursday at H.E. McCracken Middle School found no wrongdoing on the part of school officials.
According to a Bluffton police report filed by Katrina Burr, her daughter — an eighth-grader at the school — contacted her after she was pulled from her first-period class for a uniform inspection by the school’s assistant principal.
The student was taken into the hall for approximately five minutes to wait for additional students with possible dress-code violations, the report said.
The students were taken to a portable classroom where a female teacher met them, the report said.
No male students or staff were present, the report said.
The student told a police officer that the assistant principal and teacher had the female students line up with their backs to the wall and that the first few students were brought behind the teacher’s desk to have their pants checked.
The student said the female teacher asked her to turn around to “check to see if her pants were form-fitting,” the report said.
At that point, the student said the teacher had her turn and then “put her whole hand into (the student’s) front pockets approximately three different times to check the fabric that the pants were made out of.” That made the student “a little uncomfortable,” the report said.
“She was just so confused as to what was going on yesterday and why she had to have a hand put in her pocket,” Burr said Friday.
Burr said her family recently moved to the Bluffton area and that this is her daughter’s first year in the Beaufort County school system. She said her daughter had never been pulled out of class for a uniform inspection before.
The student said she was then released without punishment and texted her mother around 11 a.m. to let her know what happened, according to the report.
According to the school’s dress code, bottoms worn by students must be solid khaki or black. Jeans are not permitted, and bottoms must be free of graphics and embroidery with the exception of small labels. They also must be of an appropriate length and no shorter than three inches above the top of the knee when standing.
Cargo-style pants or shorts and baggy pants are not allowed. Neither are “low-rise” jeans. Belts must also be worn if pants, skirts, skorts or shorts have belt loops.
Bluffton Police spokesperson Joy Nelson said Friday that a school resource officer met with the principal and teachers involved and that “no wrongdoing by the teachers or the procedures carried out has been founded.” The case has now been closed by the department.
Jim Foster, director of communications for the school district, said Friday that school staff had recorded an increase in dress-code violations, particularly with jeans. In response to that uptick, the staff decided to conduct a school-wide sweep for violations after students returned from winter break. Principal Jerry Henderson notified all McCracken parents about the sweep by telephone message after school was dismissed Thursday, Foster said.
“Any students who were considered to be possibly out of dress code were escorted to mobile classrooms,” Foster said. “Male students went with male administrators, and female students went with female administrators.”
“In cases where it appeared that a student might be wearing jeans, staff briefly touched the fabric of pants near the belt or pocket area to determine if the pants were jeans,” Foster said. “No students expressed any concerns at the time.”
When asked if the district has any policy on how to conduct dress-code violation checks, Foster said there is no specific policy. Rather, when and how checks are conducted is up to individual principals and their leadership teams.
Thursday’s inspection resulted in dress-code warnings to 37 boys and 57 girls, Foster said.
“At this time, our investigation has found nothing inappropriate about Thursday’s dress-code check,” Foster said. “McCracken parents will continue to be informed about dress-code violations in the hopes that they will work with the school to ensure that students are dressed appropriately.”