Originally created 07/04/05

Trustee calls for uniform policy review



At least one member of the Richmond County Board of Education is asking that the middle school uniform policy be reconsidered.

Enforcing what pupils wear can be a burden on school staff and can take away from tending to more serious discipline problems and educating children, board member Helen Minchew said. School staff members have done their best, but it might be time to end school uniforms in middle schools.

"I think we've been working at this, and we've tried it," Mrs. Minchew said. "It just continues to take more of their time and effort than it's worth."

Instead, middle school pupils should be under a dress code policy, as high school students are, she said. She has asked that the issue be put on the agenda for the next board meeting.

"At this time, (the uniform policy) seems to be working in the elementary schools better," Mrs. Minchew said, adding that name-brand clothing isn't as important to them.

There also has been a problem with consistency in enforcing the uniform policy, she said.

Board member Barbara Padgett said, however, that pupils should learn professionalism and how to dress in school.

"I definitely support the dress code," Mrs. Padgett said. "We're supposed to be teaching these children to go out into the world and be independent and make it on their own."

Uniforms have many benefits, she said.

"It takes a lot of pressure off some of the children who can't afford the name-brand clothes," Mrs. Padgett said. "I cannot tell you how many parents have told me since we started how easy it is to dress their children in the morning."

Hephzibah High School Principal Veta New said it's tough to enforce even the dress code while also teaching the curriculum but that being an educator is a tough job. She added that she is prepared to enforce the policy, whatever it is.

"This is a tough job, but all of it has to be done and all of it has to be done well," said Dr. New, who admittedly runs a "tight ship."

She said she and her staff agreed to crack down on dress code violations early to set the tone last school year. It's "critically important" for students to learn in school how to act and dress in the professional world, she said.

"You dress for the particular activity you're going to do, and when children go to school they should be dressed to learn," Dr. New said.

"You tend to it every day, but that's like anything. ... There's always the 'pull up your pants and tuck in your shirts.' "

Mrs. Padgett said school officials need the cooperation of parents as well.

Mrs. Minchew said the uniform policy should be discussed at the July 14 school board meeting.

Reach Greg Gelpi at (706) 828-3851 or greg.gelpi@augustachronicle.com.

Uniform policy

Elementary and middle school pupils must wear uniforms and follow a dress code. Students in high school must adhere to a dress code.

Richmond County Board of Education uniform policy:

- All pants, including jeans, must be a traditional style without cutouts or holes and without ornamentation. Any denim worn must be solid khaki, blue or black. The garment must be fitted at the waist, worn at the waist and not be baggy or oversized and not be frayed at the bottom.

- Acceptable top or shirt colors are solid red, white, blue and one color of school choice. The school choice might include an appropriate school-spirit shirt. Outerwear must meet the requirements of the dress code but are not subject to the color restrictions of the uniform policy.

- The school uniform policy must accommodate pupils whose religious beliefs are substantially burdened by a uniform requirement. For example, religious messages cannot be singled out for suppression, but they are subject to the same rules as generally applied to comparable messages.

- The uniform policy shall not prohibit pupils from wearing or displaying expressive items, so long as such items conform to the dress and grooming policy and do not independently contribute to disruption by substantially interfering with discipline or with the rights of others.

- The policy should make reasonable and discrete provisions for parents who cannot afford to purchase uniforms, by:

    a. acquiring sponsors to provide assistance in uniform purchases;

    b. requesting other school parents work together to make uniforms available for economically disadvantaged children;

    c. asking for donations of used uniforms from graduates to be available for incoming pupils; andd. any other reasonable action taken by the school.

- Under all circumstances, uniform attire must conform to the county dress and grooming policy.

Source: Richmond County public schools