White shirts or blouses with collars. Pants, dress shorts, skirts or jumpers in navy blue or khaki. No jeans. No sweat pants. Closed-toe shoes. No sandals. If the clothing has belt loops, wear a belt . . . and tuck your shirt in.
Pleasant Green Elementary in the Granite School District will be the first Utah school to implement a uniform dress code policy next school year, proponents told the Board of Education Tuesday night.Mary Ann Wren, a parent in the Magna school, told the board Tuesday night that standard dress will increase children's safety and self-esteem and allow children to focus on their education, not what they wear.
The policy is voluntary and will be evaluated after a trial period, she said.
But a group of parents pledges to fight the decision on grounds uniforms infringe on a student's right of choice and expression and that uniforms will burden parents' pocketbooks.
A uniform policy brands Pleasant Green as a poor, gang-polluted school, parent Shelli Hutto-Poulson said after the meeting. "We do need to work on things, but this isn't the solution. They're going to put these kids in uniforms and pretend there is no gang problem."
How a person dresses contributes to how a person behaves and the image he or she portrays, Wren said. Dressed in a high-necked, white-collared black dress, she called attention to her dress and mannerisms and said she hoped it indicated respect for the board.
"But what if I perhaps sat before you in old jeans and a holey T-shirt and sandals? What if the board came in cut-off jeans, holey T-shirts and sockless Nikes? What kind of image would you be portraying?"
The current school dress code prohibits gang insignias and the baggy clothes often associated with gang-affiliated young people.
"Still, we need more," Wren, accompanied by several Pleasant Green parents, told the board. "Gang behavior, a lack of respect for teachers and adults at school, physical violence, defacement of the school and school property by graffiti and disruptive behavior in the classroom continues."
A school task force has held two parent meetings on the topic and sent out two surveys. About 55 percent of people who've offered feedback want uniforms. In the last survey, 450 were sent out to some parents of the school's 850 students. Of the 136 returned, 74 were in favor and 68 were against, she said.
Because people opposed to uniforms are concerned about costs, Wren asked the board for $30,000 to help subsidize uniform purchases for some families.
Granite board members vowed to study the issue and will decide in a future meeting whether to give the $30,000.
Wren told the board it was a small group that has "very vocally, very rudely let their voices be heard" in opposition to the uniform proposal.
"I guess that would be me," said Hutto-Poulson. "I'm opposed, so I'm rude. She's saying this to discredit me, but she's talking about my child, who is the most precious thing in the world to me, and I want to be involved in this decision."
Monroe Elementary also is seriously considered uniforms but has run into resistance from parents, Principal Robert Roberts told the board. He's put the issue on hold through the summer but will bring it up again in the fall in a "subtle, methodical way."
About 35 people attended an informational meeting, but the bulk of parents need to know more about it.
"This is a major, major change from what we've done over the years," board president Patricia Sandstrom said. "If you got 35 people from a school the size of yours . . . you have to go much much further than that before making a change."
Whether students should wear uniforms, and whether standard dress helps crime and other student-related problems, has been a hot topic in education circles this spring.
President Clinton endorsed school uniforms in his State of the Union address in January. He later ordered the Department of Education to distribute a manual that shows school officials how to form policies about uniforms.
In April, Education Week, a trade newspaper based in Washington, D.C., devoted its commentary section to the topic. One author called uniforms "the latest rage" in education but wrote, "The problem is, we don't know whether uniforms actually reduce violence in the schools."
Loads of anecdotal evidence shows uniforms help, that students behave better, are focused and have better self-esteem - but there is little documentable evidence. Other factors probably play a big role in decreases, according to the article.
"The sense of having a safety crisis in our schools impels us to act before we think," the writer concludes. "In the case of public school uniforms, it may be wise to pause and assess the implications of our actions."