Uniforms don't belong here
Pamela Glenn, Guest columnist
This is addressed to the members of the Hartselle Board of Education, the Superintendent of Education, Dr. Lee Hartsell, the parents of students, the students, and any concerned citizen of Hartselle or of any other school district that may consider implementing a mandatory school uniform policy.
As a mother of three students in Hartselle city schools, one in each level, I felt compelled to attend the last two meetings of the Board of Education concerning mandatory school uniforms. I was pleased they allowed the citizens attending to speak and give opposing and proponent views. I was also glad they decided to hear more from the community through a survey that can be completed at each school. I was not pleased, however, with the lack of information given at the meetings. A list of reasons to have uniforms was read but I did not hear anything on the legality of forcing a uniform policy.
Type in "school uniform" under the internet search engine Google and you get 1,840,000 results. Among the many sites to purchase uniforms I found several sites that provided information for and against school uniforms. What I found most intriguing was the amount of lawsuits brought against school districts that had implemented a school uniform policy. When the parents of Polk County, Fla., disagreed with the very strict uniform dress code and filed suit, the school district expended $77,000 with an estimated $800,000 cost if the lawsuit went to trial. Their case was dismissed but the money was gone.
Hartselle Board of Education stated in both meetings that it was discussed last year if there were problems enforcing the current dress code a uniform policy would be considered. According to the information I have found, if the board was taken to court over enforcing a uniform dress code they would have to prove that a uniform policy is rational for their district. In other words, they would have to prove there are major disciplinary problems at Hartselle such as violence, thefts, gangs, low test scores, etc. Even the board would have to agree that these are not problems in our school system. Yes, members of the board have listed other reasons to have a uniform policy, but their "list" comes from the idea that some other schools that have had uniforms have seen an improvement in test scores, attendance, violent behavior, less crime, etc. But these so-called results have been proven scientifically flawed. (the improvements did not result just from a uniform dress code)
Another legal hurdle the board would have to face is the "opt-out" provision. From the NAESP web site on the Principal Forum page, a principal presented the problem of one parent saying "No" to their new mandatory uniform requirement and threatening to go to court. He asked if anyone solved a similar problem. A response came from Rita Oates, Ph.D. from Miami-Dade County Public Schools. She stated to have the mother sign a "opt-out" waiver form and "the child doesn't have to be in uniform." But most interesting was her next statement; "Legally you can't require her child to being in uniform if it's a public school." In some school districts students whose parents "opt-out" transferred to another school that did not have a mandatory uniform dress code. Since Hartselle's uniform policy would involve all schools, this provision would mean a student transferring to a school out of district or be home schooled at Hartselle's expense.
There are many web sites and many more items that could be debated between the proponents and the ones opposed to a mandatory school uniform. If you are for or against school uniforms, I suggest you do some research and inform yourself and not depend on the Board of Education to do it for you.
I believe if the school board had researched more on the matter, they would have discovered (which they should already know) Hartselle does not fall in the demographics of most schools that have applied a uniform policy. We are a small town with wonderful citizens (including students), low crime rate, and a great sense of community. Forcing the students, who are the future long-term citizens of Hartselle, to dress as though they are considered a problem that must be punished, you might find fewer residents of Hartselle in the years to come, new and old.
The so called "good" reasons for having a uniforms have been researched and documented as perceived results, not scientific. We are human and do live in a "perceived society," so let me give you one more perceived result. When I see a child in a school uniform I perceive two conclusions; One, he attends a parochial or private school. Two, he attends a school with high violence and low test scores and his school is trying to improve themselves with uniforms. Let's not give Hartselle that perception.
Web Sites visited and information derived from.
Links to page – School Uniforms: The Raging Debate (a research paper)
By: Darlene Williams
Under contents click on "Uniform Lawsuit", scroll down to
"The Law on Uniforms" by: Gary Peter Klahr
www.geocities.com/school_uniforms/ (many links listed on this site)
Links to page – Background Info
Opinions and Arguments