When it comes to discipline standards, Thomson High School is setting the example for a national guideline. Last month, Principal Rudy Falana was interviewed by both USA Today magazine and CNN news regarding the school's dress code and cell phone policies.
USA Today was the first to call Mr. Falana. The principal said the magazine writers were doing some research for back to school articles, when they saw on the internet that THS "had a fairly strict dress policy and discipline policy." From the magazine article, Mr. Falana said "CNN8 out of Philadelphia picked it up."
"They just asked what our policy was and if we were having any problems with it... and they asked how we control it," he said.
During his interview, Mr. Falana learned that the schools in Philadelphia were having problems with cell phone use during class and with students wearing grills. Grills are removable gold, silver and gem studded jewelry worn on teeth, popularized by rappers. Mr. Falana said THS banned grills in the dress code policy before they became popular.
"But I guess other people were just reactive instead of being proactive to it," he said.
The principal said he has heard through friends that schools in his home state of Florida are also having problems with dress code policies. He doesn't understand why there is a problem.
"Well, we have the policy set forth, and it's just like speeding," he said. "You tell them what the speed limit is, and some people will speed. Eventually, they'll get caught and will have to suffer the consequences. It's the same thing with our policies."
For cell phones, THS has an "if you use it, you lose it" policy. When students are caught with a cell phone, it is taken for seven days and the student will have in-school suspension for three days, according to Mr. Falana.
"And if they get caught again, then it's taken permanently, and we turn them over to the sheriff's department at the end of the year," he said.
The dress code at THS differs from many schools, according to Mr. Falana, because students are required to wear identification badges at all times, shirts must be tucked in with a belt, dresses and skirts must be knee-length or longer, and pants must not be baggy or frayed at the bottom.
"We are trying to get the kids to dress for success," Mr. Falana said. "There's life after high school, and a lot of students, if they don't get that here, then when they go to look for a job. ... They are not sure how to go dressed."
Mr. Falana said how the students dress also affects their behavior. He feels the requirement to dress for success has encouraged students to stay in class and learn, which he said is a testament to the school's recent recognition in the state for high test scores.
Bragging about the high test scores is something Mr. Falana would rather do than talk about national news interviews.
"It was just something they asked, so I gave them the information. It really wasn't a big deal," he said. "I don't really pay attention. I just worry about what we are doing, and make sure we are safe. It's kind of hard to worry about everybody else. I just feel good that we are teaching our kids the right way to do things, and how to follow rules and respect authority."