Nevada parents debate school clothing policy
A group of parents of students at both Zephyr Cove Elementary and Kingsbury Middle schools have launched a campaign to bring uniforms – or more accurately – “school wear” into the classroom.
“Basically we’re looking to improve the general attitude, promote self-pride and decrease discipline problems,” said KMS parent Kathy Bradford. “The dress codes now are designed for neatness, but many parents want things tightened up even more.”
Suggestions for school wear, said Bradford, would include khaki or navy blue pants or skirts and collared shirts. School logo wear might also be a consideration, but sweat pants and denim would not be allowed.
Student feedback has been inconclusive, however a “fashion show” of options will be presented to KMS students on May 12.
Following that, Bradford said official ballots will be sent to parents of students at both schools. Final results should be in by May 30.
The issue will not be pursued unless there is an 80 percent return and a 70 percent approval rate, Bradford said.
“Parents have done a great job of researching this,” said Zephyr Cove Principal Robby Robison. “In bigger cities you see problems with gangs, but here it’s more about creating a mind-set – the business is school and the mission is learning, not what Suzy Q is wearing.”
Being public schools, Robison said there are two important stipulations should the school wear program be implemented.
First, the program has to be voluntary – allowing parents the right to sign a waiver should they choose not to participate. And second, money from fund-raising efforts would have to be available for families who would like to participate but cannot afford the appropriate apparel.
“We also don’t want the clothing rules to be a source of discipline for teachers and administrators,” said Robison. “The parents are really taking the reins on this – we shouldn’t have to worry about enforcement at school.”
“The feeling among our staff is generally favorable,” said KMS Principal Tom Covault. “Most think it’s a good idea, but not all. Because we’re a public school, a few teachers have said, ‘If you can’t mandate it, why try it?'”
However, studies at other schools have generally shown that if at least 70 percent of the student body initially adheres to the clothing guidelines, the percentage tends to grow, Covault said.
But those who oppose the program tend to feel strongly about the motivations behind it, said Bradford.
“I think it’s demeaning to children,” said Nick Adams, who has one child at KMS and another starting kindergarten at Zephyr Cove in the fall. “It’s telling our kids that we no longer trust them. Granted, it’s happening all over the country, but it’s not going to cure crime – it’s a Band-Aid. Studies about uniforms causing higher test scores and less violence are inconclusive – there are so many factors. When I heard parents saying uniforms would increase intelligence rates, I said, ‘Wow, this is the biggest thing since the coming of Christ.'”
“We’ve interviewed seven middle schools who are doing it for the same reasons we want to,” countered Bradford. “We didn’t find one that didn’t like it – they said the feeling at their schools is now more positive.”
The school uniform discussion was renewed in January when President Clinton championed the idea in his State of the Union address. He said public schools should be allowed to require them if it would mean “teen-agers will stop killing each other over designer jackets.”
However, Dennis Harmon, president of the George Whittell High School Boosters Club, said the issue of uniforms is not a hot topic among parents at the high school.
“There wasn’t a lot of interest in the idea at the board meeting,” said Harmon. “Other high schools may have done it to curtail gang activity, but we don’t see those kinds of problems at our school – when there have been problems at Whittell, the administration has been right on it.”
In addition, uniform or school wear policies are generally harder to implement at the high school level, said Covault, because “the need for freedom of expression and individualism becomes more of an issue.”
Although Bradford said a recent public forum on the school wear program was not well attended, the upcoming ballots will give parent club members a much clearer picture by the end of May.
“Some parents who were on the fence have come out in favor once they learned a little more,” said Bradford. “But it’s really a parent decision – if there’s not overwhelming support, we won’t do it.”
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