What board members say about school uniforms

What board members say about school uniforms

DANVILLE — Here's what five Danville school board members are saying about a proposed uniform standard of dress policy.

RANDAL ASHTON

"I like that there was some flexibility in what they could wear, but I would like to see more flexibility, especially at the high school ... and middle school," said Ashton, the only board member to vote against going to a uniform standard of dress. "One of my concerns is the students weren't entirely represented in the proposal.

"I think they're going to miss not being able to wear jeans, and I don't think (whether they wear jeans or khakis) is going to have that big of an impact. Why the intolerance for jeans? They're solid blue."

Ashton wants students "to look as professional as possible ... without having to dictate what they wear."

He believes the board should look at Decatur, which implemented a uniform code in its two public high schools in 2011. However, there have been efforts, including an online petition drive, to do away with them.

"It hasn't been all rosy in Decatur,"Ashton said.

STEVE BRAGORGOS

"I think it's about 80 percent there," said Bragorgos, who would like to see fewer color and pattern options, making the code easier to enforce. "It's too watered down by compromise and trying to please everybody. That takes away from the effectiveness of a uniform policy."

He strongly supports the no jeans rule, which he believes the majority of elementary school teachers also favor.

"I think we should be listening to the teachers who are in the classrooms every day," he said. "One of the way we can improve our schools is by starting to change behaviors. A uniform policy can help us begin to do that. It will cut down on distractions, make (students) more focused, promote more discipline and give teachers a little more control over their classrooms."

Bragorgos said that more demands have been placed upon teachers in the effort to improve academic achievement.

"Good leadership is about setting the conditions to help them achieve the goals and missions and be successful," he said.

Bragorgos doesn't believe there will be much push-back once a policy is put in place. "I think they'll get used to it pretty quickly, and it won't be a big deal," he said.

BILL DOBBLES

"There are some good things about it," said Dobbles, the board president.

But "there are inconsistencies," he continued, pointing out that a plain-colored sweatshirt would meet the code, but a sweater with a pattern or a nice hoodie would not.

To Dobbles, that doesn't make sense, when he thought the intent was to raise the standard of dress and prepare students how to dress for the work world.

"The goal of the policy is not to kick kids out of school or make it unpleasant to come to school," he said. But he fears that could be the result, given the current clothing restrictions and consequences, which include a warning, parent meetings and in- and out-of-school suspensions.

"I have a problem with the consequences. If you don't follow the policy, kids would be placed in refocus rooms or suspended from school. That's not a good thing," the retired teacher said.

While the board approved moving to a stricter dress code, Dobbles said they have yet to sit down and discuss what the standard of dress should look like.

"Clearly, some board members seem to favor a policy that's as close to a true uniform policy as they can get passed," he said. "But I don't think it's helpful for board members to take a strong position right now until they listen to what parents have to say and discuss it amongst themselves.

"I think if we can't come up with something that the board, administration and most parents and students will support, that would be a mistake."

DARLENE HALLORAN

"I believe it does need a bit of revision to make it easier to enforce," Halloran said. "Our teachers and administrators' main function is to educate. And I want the policy to reflect that and ... make it easy for them to bring the focus to education."

A retired Danville High guidance counselor, Halloran opposed the idea until her grandchildren began attending Northeast Elementary Magnet School, where students wear uniforms, and she began reading academic studies that showed they could improve school climate.

"I would like to see the culture and climate of every one of our buildings be focused on education," she said. "Receiving an education is more than an individual accomplishment. It's an accomplishment for our entire educational system and community. So I would really like the detractors to see this as a bigger issue than just what the kids are wearing."

Halloran would like to have an opportunity to talk to every student about the policy.

"I think that kids are very reasonable people," she said. "And given good reason, they, too, will buy in to the larger sense of what's important."

LON HENDERSON

"What they proposed isn't long," he said. But he thinks parts of the code are vague and confusing.

For example, "What exactly is 'low-cut?' Why are solids OK but a checked pattern isn't?" said Henderson, who believes the policy, as it stands, would be difficult to administer.

Henderson wants the board to re-examine the policy's intent.

"If our goal is for everybody to look the same, it would be very simple — white shirt and khaki pants," he said. "But if the goal is to improve the standard of what they're wearing, why not just a button-down shirt, or couldn't a collared shirt suffice? It wouldn't matter what the color is or the pattern is.

"That's the conversation we have to have."

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